MOSCOW, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The Russian Central Election Committee rejected Liberal opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky's bid to run for president against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Committee Secretary Nikolai Konkin said two reviews of the 2 million signatures supporting the Yabloko Party founder's application indicated 26 percent of them were invalid, RIA Novosti reported Friday. The law allows only 5 percent.
The election is March 4.
The committee also rejected an application by Irkutsk Gov. Dmitry Mezentsev, saying the number of signatures was below 2 million. The panel said it stopped the verification process after a sample of 105,000 signatures found more than 15,000 were invalid.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov was the only independent presidential candidate who submitted a valid list of signatures and was certified to run in the presidential election, RIA Novosti said.
The U.S. State Department said it was disappointed in the Central Election Commission's refusal to register Yavlinsky's candidacy.
"Open political competition requires that electoral laws be applied fairly to all parties and candidates," a State Department spokesman said Friday. "Russians, like Americans and people everywhere, seek free, fair, transparent elections and a genuine choice when they go to the ballot box."