Russia's leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny has called on Russians to boycott next year's presidential election, even as he vows to appeal a government ruling barring him from the campaign, according to DW.

The Central Election Commission voted unanimously on Monday to ban Navalny from the 2018 campaign because of a criminal conviction in a fraud case, which Navalny considers a politically trumped-up charge to keep him out politics.

The commission's ruling comes just a day after Navalny applied to run for president, calling on supporters around the country to show their support for his bid.

Read alsoRussian presidential election: Rallies held for Alexei Navalny – BBCPresident Vladimir Putin had to take a four-year hiatus as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, but has effectively ruled Russia for the past 17 years. Seeking a fourth term as president would provide him a mandate until 2024.

The election is slated for March 18. Putin is widely expected to win re-election, irrespective of whether Navalny is allowed to run.

Should he succeed, he would become Russia's longest serving leader since Josef Stalin.

Russian law prohibits people with a criminal conviction from running for president but the commission could have given him a special dispensation that would allow him to run. Likewise a court could cancel his conviction. Navalny has said he will push for a mass boycott of the election if he is not allowed to compete.

"The procedure that we're invited to take part in is not an election," he said. "Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it."

"Going to the polls right now," he said, "is to vote for lies and corruption."