Sepp Blatter re-elected as FIFA President

Other News Materials 29 May 2015 22:35 (UTC +04:00)
Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA’s president on Friday, emerging from a week of scandal and renewed public criticism with a fifth term as the head of soccer’s world governing body.
Sepp Blatter re-elected as FIFA President

Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA's president on Friday, emerging from a week of scandal and renewed public criticism with a fifth term as the head of soccer's world governing body, The New York Times reported.

On the first ballot of FIFA's member federations here, Mr. Blatter got 133 votes, just short of the two-thirds majority required. His challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, got 73 votes.

A second ballot would have required only a simple majority, making Prince Ali an extreme underdog, and he withdrew from the race.

The announcement of the results came after a prolonged voting period in which a member of each delegation was called to the front of the arena in alphabetical order by delegation to cast a ballot in one of two boxy white voting booths.

After it concluded, the paper ballots were dumped on a table and counted by hand. The entire process took about two hours.

Mr. Blatter, one of the most powerful people in sports, has run FIFA as an autocracy since winning the presidency in 1998. He was expected to defeat Prince Ali despite the allegations of criminal behavior that have engulfed his organization this week. The vote took place only miles from the luxury hotel where several top FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday on corruption charges brought by the United States.

For years, FIFA's membership has largely operated in lock step under Mr. Blatter as he weathered numerous controversies - corruption, bribery, match-fixing and others - and rarely showed any sign of vulnerability. In the previous two presidential races, he ran unopposed. The federal charges this week against some of his top officials were considered an international embarrassment, but hardly a threat to his power.

The FIFA president is elected by a one-country, one-vote poll of its 209 member federations, making the many smaller countries who support Mr. Blatter an effective counterweight to his unpopularity elsewhere, most notably in Europe.

Mr. Blatter, who was not directly implicated in the indictment or in a separate investigation announced by Swiss authorities into the 2010 voting that awarded the next two World Cups, said in a speech before the vote Friday: "I am being held accountable for the current storm. O.K., so be it. I will shoulder it."

He acknowledged in a speech Thursday that these are "unprecedented and difficult times" for FIFA. But he also tried to absolve himself of blame for FIFA's latest scandal.

"We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time," he said. "If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it. But it must also fall to me to be responsible for the reputation of our entire organization, and to find a way to fix things."

Prince Ali, a brother of King Abdullah II, ran on a platform of transparency. He promised Friday "to throw open the door of FIFA house."

In an interview in March, he said that if he somehow unseated Mr. Blatter, he had no intention of remaining in power as long.

"One term," he said. "One term. I want to get in there, make the changes that need to be made and then get out of the way."

Mr. Blatter promised that a new term would be his last. He made the same promise before his last election.

Separately, FIFA avoided a controversy Friday when the head of Palestine's soccer federation, Jibril Rajoub, withdrew a proposal to suspend Israel from world soccer. Given the floor to address the delegates, Mr. Rajoub made an impassioned speech accusing Israel of racism and imposing unfair restrictions on player movement in the region, but then said he was withdrawing the proposal at the urging of top FIFA officials.