FINE Gael presidential hopeful Pat Cox was dealt a blow last night when he was left with just three weeks to canvass support for his Aras candidacy.
The party last night cleared the way for the former European Parliament president to seek the party's presidential nomination.
But the timing of the convention to select the party's candidate is just three weeks away.
Fine Gael was previously due to hold its presidential election selection convention at the end of July.
The three-week deadline leaves Mr Cox with little time to canvass Fine Gael figures for their support. The former Fianna Fail candidate, PD TD and Independent MEP also faces a growth in support for Fine Gael MEPs Gay Mitchell and Mairead McGuinness.
Fine Gael's national executive ratified Mr Cox's application to join the party's St Luke's Branch in the Cork North-Central constituency.
The party executive also discussed the details on the holding of the convention, where TD, senators, MEPs, councillors and executive members will pick the candidate.
Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran, on behalf of the Executive Council, confirmed last night that the application was approved.
The application of Dr Patrick Crowley, an Independent member of Kilkenny County Council, was also approved.
Mr Cox is still expected to seek the Fine Gael nomination. But he indicated his interest in going forward for the candidacy before Mr Mitchell entered the field.
The weighted voting system sees 70pc of the votes going to TDs, senators and MEPs, 20pc to the councillors and 10pc to the executive council.
The convention will be held on the outskirts of Dublin.
The national executive discussed the procedure for the holding of the electoral college.
Meanwhile, the presidential election may also affect the date of the next Fine Gael ard fheis.
Due to broadcasting rules, the party may not be able to hold the national conference in the autumn, as it would be too close to the presidential election. Therefore, the party may postpone the event until next year.