Kazakhstan's presidential hopefuls will have to pass a gruelling 90 minute spelling and grammar test, in a move that may dissuade challengers from running against the country's long-serving ruler.
The country's election commission announced its plans for a strict language test on Monday, and the first candidates sat the exam on Tuesday.
The handful of candidates putting themselves forward to take on Nursultan Nazarbayev in an election this April, will be allowed just one spelling mistake in the Kazakh language test.
Twenty years after independence, Russian remains the dominant language in the former Soviet republic, with only about two thirds of the people speaking any Kazakh.
Opponents of Mr Nazarbayev claim the test has been implemented to deter them from running.
The oil-rich republic's most vociferous opposition politician, Vladimir Kozlov of the Alga! Party, has already bowed out of the contest, complaining that, as an ethnic Russian, he speaks little Kazakh and stands no chance of learning in time.
alikhan Kaisarov, the first applicant to fail the oral and written test, accused the authorities of using it as a pretext to block him.
"I think it was a political order, and the only object was to deny me an opportunity to take part in this presidential election," said Mr Kaisarov, who claims to speak Kazakh flawlessly. "I told them there is not one country in the world that has set up a linguistic commission and wants to make its citizens pass a language exam."
Myrzatay Zholdasbekov, the committee's chairman, said the candidate "made a lot of spelling, stylistic and punctuation errors. In total, he made 28 errors."
Musaghali Duambekov, a little known environmental politician who stresses his support for Mr Nazarbayev, on Tuesday became the first candidate to pass the exam, despite five "minor stylistic mistakes".
Mr Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country since before the fall of the Soviet Union, will himself have to face the exam.
The Kazakh language is enjoying a revival as the government pushes for 90pc of people to speak it by 2020.