CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — A key candidate in Moldova's presidential election withdrew from the race Wednesday, giving a boost to a pro-European candidate in the former Soviet republic.
Marian Lupu, who is chairman of the Democratic Party, the biggest party in the pro-European governing coalition, said he was quitting the race to throw his support behind Maia Sandu, an ex-World Bank economist who vows to fight corruption.
Lupu said the party wanted "the elections to be won by a (pro)-European candidate who has the greatest chances."
In a related development, Iurie Leanca a former prime minister and foreign minister said he would announce Thursday whether he too would withdraw from the race. He postponed making a statement on his intentions Wednesday following Lupu's surprise decision to quit.
Sandu currently trails in the polls behind Igor Dodon, who favors closer relations with Russia.
Dodon gained popularity by posing standing bare-chested in icy waters, dressed in a traditional peasant's smock in one of Moldova's vineyards and also wearing fatigues and holding a rifle.
The Oct. 30 ballot is the first time Moldovans will elect a president by popular vote in 20 years. Nine candidates are now running.
No candidate is expected to secure a majority in the first round, in which case a runoff would be held two weeks later.