The government-backed candidate in Moldova’s presidential race withdrew on Wednesday, saying it was a tactical move to ensure the presidency remained in pro-European hands. The frontrunner ahead of Sunday’s election is pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon, who wants to hold a referendum on the ex-Soviet nation’s Association Agreement with the EU. On Wednesday government choice Marian Lupu said he would step aside to boost the chances of fellow pro-Western candidate Maia Sandu. Sandu last week told Reuters that a split among pro-European politicians could harm Moldova. “This is a tactical decision. Moldova needs a pro-European president. Polls show she (Sandu) is more favored,” Lupu told journalists.
The president in Moldova is more than just a figurehead – he or she can return laws to parliament, dissolve the assembly in certain situations and appoint the prime minister.
Moldova embarked on its pro-EU course in 2009 despite its reliance on Russian energy supplies. Russia retaliated by banning its farm exports, including wine and apples, that are a major source of income for Moldovans.