The opposition Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, candidate for Puerto Rico's governorship, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, found himself enmeshed Thursday in an altercation at the State Elections Commission in San Juan when he accompanied a group of citizens who were intending to register to vote.

Garcia Padilla, who according to a survey last August is 5 points ahead of Gov. Luis Fortuño among likely voters less than two months prior to the Nov. 6 election, was a witness to a confrontation between followers of his party and those of the governing New Progressive Party, or PNP.

A PNP electoral commissioner who came to the State Elections Commission rebuked followers of the PPD and Garcia Padilla, saying that he could not enter the commission offices, and this resulted in a confrontation that made it necessary to call on the police to intervene.

Garcia Padilla said after the incident at a press conference that the altercation arose because of the violent attitude of PNP supporters and he claimed that it was part of an attempt by the governing party to prevent Puerto Rican citizens from registering to vote prior to the Nov. 6 election.

The leader of the opposition asked the public to register to vote before next Monday, the deadline set by the State Elections Commission.

The incident came less than two months before the gubernatorial election on Nov. 6, the date on which Puerto Ricans will also vote on their political relationship with the United States.

Garcia Padilla's opposition PPD wants to continue with the island's current U.S. Commonwealth status, while Gov. Fortuño is pushing to have the island join the United States as the 51st state.

The San Juan daily El Nuevo Dia last August published a survey in which Garcia Padilla obtained the support of 41 percent of the likely voters while Fortuño garnered 36 percent.

The candidate in third place in the pre-election surveys is Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP, nominee Juan Salmau, who received the support of 4 percent of the likely voters.

Among the minority parties, Rogelio Figueroa, of the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party, or PPR, was supported by 1 percent of those polled.

Eleven percent of those surveyed said they still had not decided whom to vote for, 4 percent said they would not cast ballots and the remaining 3 percent refused to respond.

The August survey, conducted among a sample of 1,000 people over age 18 in towns all over the island and with an error margin of +/- 3 percent, showed that Fortuño and Garcia Padilla had moved closer together in terms of their support since last May, when the difference between the candidates was 7 percent.

The Nov. 6 balloting follows the referendum on Aug. 19, in which Puerto Ricans were asked about limiting the right to bail in certain murder cases and reducing the size of the island's Legislative Assembly.

The referendum, promoted by Fortuño, resulted in a rejection of both proposals by a narrow margin, a result that local analysts said could be a harbinger of what will occur on Nov. 6. EFE