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Kazakh Presidential Hopeful Passes Mandatory Language Test

This man's Kazakh language skills are good enough to be president.
This man's Kazakh language skills are good enough to be president.
ASTANA -- A little-known environmental activist has become the first Kazakh presidential hopeful to pass a Kazakh-language test required of all candidates in the upcoming election, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Musaghali Duambekov passed the test today despite making what examiners said were around five minor stylistic mistakes in the test's written part.

The chairman of the linguistic test commission, Myrzatai Zholdasbekov, told journalists Duambekov very professionally read aloud some verses by prominent Kazakh poet Maghzhan Zhumabaev and did well on his speech on a topic proposed by the commission.

Duambekov, the leader of an ecological movement called “For a Green Planet,” is said to be a close associate of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's nephew, Qairat Satybaldy.

Duambekov told journalists he did not expect to win in the April 3 presidential election, adding that he fully supports Nazarbaev and his policies. “Everybody knows that our position is neutral and we support our president," he said.

According to Kazakh law, every presidential candidate has to take a Kazakh language test in order to qualify for the presidency. Critics of the law fear it could be used by supporters of President Nursultan Nazarbaev to screen out potential opponents.

On February 7, the Central Election Commission (OSK) chairman announced the test would be made stricter, adding the OSK had appointed a new team to the country's linguistic commission.

The next day, the first candidate was disqualified on the basis of the test. Former parliamentary deputy Ualikhan Qaisarov apparently made too many spelling mistakes. He told journalists after that the commission's decision was politically motivated.

Some opposition groups are urging people to boycott the April election, calling it illegal.

Kazakh opposition parties and activists complain that they do not have enough time to prepare for the polls.

Read more in Kazakh here