Moscow - The Moscow election commission said on Thursday it would consider disqualifying Alexei Navalny from next month's race for city mayor as support for President Vladimir Putin's top critic climbed on the back of a vigorous campaign.
The commission will meet "soon" to discuss violations in the campaign of the leader of the country's protest movement, its chief Valentin Gorbunov said.
"If the violations exceed the norms established by the law than the question will be raised of cancelling the registration of the candidate," Gorbunov said in comments confirmed to AFP by a spokesperson.
The election commission later said, citing "multiple" voters' reports, that the violations included the distribution of campaign literature.
Navalny, who is campaigning under the shadow of a five-year prison term on embezzlement charges, indicated he believed that the authorities made the move because they feared he could score embarrassingly well in the 8 September vote.
"Oi! The Moscow election commission announced that I could be removed from the polls," Navalny said in a message on Twitter.
"Just when the run-off had become inevitable, and suddenly..."
"Opinion polls show that I have every chance to get into a second round and win," Navalny added on Echo of Moscow radio. "They will do everything to stop this scenario."
Pro-Kremlin Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin is widely expected to win the poll but Navalny has vowed to force it into a runoff, which would happen if Sobyanin failed to win 50% of votes in the first round.