The newest candidate in the race for the Manitoba Liberal leadership will not be allowed onstage for the party's first debate.

Bob Axworthy says he is still finalizing his nomination papers, and has been told he cannot participate in Saturday's leadership debate in Portage la Prairie.

Axworthy announced his intention to run Thursday, and says he is disappointed the party cannot accommodate him.

The debate will feature the two other candidates — lawyer Rana Bokhari and business owner Dougald Lamont.

A second debate is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The Liberals are looking to replace outgoing leader Jon Gerrard, who holds the party's only legislature seat, and will choose a new leader Oct. 26.