MOSCOW, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Russian opposition candidate Grigory Yavlinsky's disqualification shouldn't affect the legitimacy of elections, the prime minister's office said Wednesday.
The comments from Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, came a day after the Central Election Commission disqualified Yavlinsky, founder of the liberal opposition Yabloko Party, from the presidential race.
The commission said about 25 percent of the 2 million signatures in support of his candidacy were invalid, and Russian law stipulates 5 percent or more invalid signatures results in disqualification.
"If one of the candidates failed to score the required number of votes [for registration], it shouldn't give rise to claims about the illegitimacy of the election, even before the elections even took place," Peskov said.
Yavlinsky has been critical of Putin, who plans to run for president in the March 4 elections.
Commission Secretary Nikolai Konkin said officials checked the validity of signatures for Yavlinsky's bid twice, the second time Tuesday evening.
The commission approved the 2 million signatures in support of the candidacy of Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire who became a politician and will be the only independent on the presidential ballot.
Prokhorov termed Yavlinsky's disqualification "a blow to the legitimacy" of the presidential ballot, which will also include candidates from the four parliamentary parties, who aren't required to collect signatures.
Putin, a member of the United Russia Party, served two terms as president 2000-2008.
The election commission also disqualified Irkutsk Gov. Dmitry Mezentsev, said to be a Kremlin ally, over invalid signatures.