A key candidate in Moldova's presidential election has withdrawn from the race, giving a boost to a pro-European candidate in the former Soviet republic.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 Wednesday he quitting the race to throw his support behind Maia Sandu, an ex-World Bank economist and a reformer.

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 holding a rifle.

The Oct. 30 ballot is the first time Moldovans have elected their president by popular vote in 20 years.