A Kazakh presidential hopeful has been disqualified from running in the April election because he made too many spelling mistakes in a language test, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Ualikhan Qaisarov, a former parliamentary deputy who intended to run as an independent in the April 3 election, was the first would-be candidate to take a new, tougher, Kazakh-language test today.
Myrzatai Zholdasbekov, chairman of the linguistic test commission, told journalists in Astana that Qaisarov made 28 spelling and stylistic mistakes in a two-page essay and was not able to fully develop and articulate the theme proposed to him by the commission.
Qaisarov, who has been critical of the government in recent years, called the decision politically motivated.
Qaisarov told journalists the commission's duty was to check the fluency of his Kazakh, but not the depth of his answers.
"I am sure the decision is politically motivated as the commission was checking not my Kazakh, but my knowledge of some certain themes," he said.
The secretary of the linguistic commission, Bakhyt Meldeshev, told journalists the decision to exclude Qaisarov from the race was final and could not be appealed.
According to Kazakh law, every presidential candidate has to take a Kazakh language test in order to qualify for the presidency. The test has come under criticism as a potential way for supporters of President Nursultan Nazarbaev to screen out opponents.
Qaisarov tried to take part in the 2005 presidential elections, but his candidacy was rejected by the Central Election Commission (OSK), which claimed that some signatures on his voter petition had been forged.
On February 7, the OSK chairman announced that the mandatory test for presidential candidates would be made stricter, adding that the OSK had appointed a new team to the linguistic commission.
Linguistic commission member Fauziya Orazbaeva told journalists on February 7 that according to the new rules, candidates would only be allowed to make one spelling or stylistic mistake.
The controversial decree on the early presidential election was signed by the president just last week. Some opposition groups are urging people to boycott the vote, calling it illegal.
Kazakh opposition parties and activists complain that they do not have enough time to prepare for the polls.