LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's electoral committee said on Wednesday that it might bar a leading candidate from the presidential race if a university in Spain finds that plagiarism allegations against him are true.
Cesar Acuna, a wealthy former governor and businessman, declined to provide immediate comment. His representatives said he would deliver a statement at 5pm (2200 GMT).
The Complutense University of Madrid is investigating whether Acuna committed fraud in his 2009 doctor's thesis on education after Twitter users accused him of plagiarism when they said that parts of the thesis match previously-published texts without attribution.
"If they withdraw or invalidate his diploma or title, obviously that would mean falsehood...he would be removed (from the race) if it's falsehood," Francisco Tavara, the president of Peru's National Jury of Elections, told reporters.
Acuna is the owner of three private universities and has made improving education a central campaign pledge.
His elimination from the presidential race would boost the chances of front-running candidate Keiko Fujimori - who competes with him for support among poorer voters - and other candidates hoping to garner enough support to face Fujimori in a run-off.
Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, has been drawing about a third of voter intent for the April 10 election. At least 50 percent of votes are needed to avoid a second-round contest in June.
Acuna had 13 percent of support in an Ipsos survey this month, tying established politician Pedro Pablo Kuczynski who is popular among investors but has been slipping in polls.
Acuna has promised to invest 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product in education and jumpstart slow economic growth.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Alistair Bell)