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Four Kyrgyz Presidential Hopefuls Fail Mandatory Language Test

Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev (left) and opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev (right) are both hoping to succeed President Roza Otunbaeva.
Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev (left) and opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev (right) are both hoping to succeed President Roza Otunbaeva.
BISHKEK -- Four would-be Kyrgyz presidential candidates have failed the mandatory Kyrgyz-language test since testing began last week, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

First it was senior Tolubai Bank official Seitbek Baigutdiev and Green Party leader Erkin Bolekbaev who flunked the test on September 8.

Then on September 11, the Kyrgyz Language Test Commission ruled that two more candidates, Mambetjunus Abylov and Zamirbek Parmankulov, are not fluent enough in Kyrgyz to take part in the presidential election scheduled for October 30.

Abylov told RFE/RL after he was disqualified that he considered the commission's ruling politically motivated. He suggested the negative assessment of his language skills might have been due to an article he recently published criticizing the government.

Parmankulov told RFE/RL he didn't know who was behind the commission's decision, but he believed the test results were rigged. Both Abylov and Parmankulov said they would appeal the decision in court.

Commission member Galina Vasilkova told RFE/RL the complaints of Abylov and Parmankulov were baseless. She said both men made a number of stylistic and grammatical mistakes during the tests, all of which are shown on national television.

Five candidates per day will take the test on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays through September 24. The broadcasts of the tests are popular among television viewers in Kyrgyzstan, where many people speak Russian as their first language and speak poor Kyrgyz.

Presidential candidates must pay a 100,000-som (about $2,200) registration fee before taking the test. The fee is only refundable if the candidate gets at least 5 percent of the vote in the election.

Would-be candidates also had to submit to the Central Election Commission (BSK) by September 10 documented proof that at least 30,000 voters support their presidential bid.

BSK member Elanora Turdubekova told RFE/RL that 34 potential presidential candidates failed to provide the commission with such proof and have therefore been excluded from the list, reducing the number of potential candidates to approximately 30, pending results of the language tests.

Seventy-eight people initially registered to become a candidate.

BSK member Almaz Asanaliev told RFE/RL on September 6 that the list of candidates who had paid the required fee, proved they had 30,000 supporters, and passed the language test would be announced on September 25.

President Roza Otunbaeva, who was named interim leader after former President Kurmanbek Bakiev was ousted by antigovernment protests in April 2010, has kept her pledge not to run for another term in office.

Among the most prominent people seeking to become president are Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev, opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party leader Omurbek Tekebaev, opposition United Kyrgyzstan party leader Adakhan Madumarov, former Emergency Situations Minister Kamchybek Tashiev of the Ata-Jurt (Native Land) party, and former Prosecutor-General Kubatbek Baibolov.

Read more in Kyrgyz here, here, and here