News 22nd May 2015

Van Praag & Figo withdraw from FIFA Presidential election

Michael van Praag and Luis Figo (pictured) have withdrawn from the FIFA Presidential race, with the latter describing the 29 May election as a ‘plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man, something I refuse to go along with’. The withdrawal means that Blatter will face Prince Ali Al-Hussein as the sole challenger to his Presidency at the Hallenstadion in Zurich in a secret ballot at the end of the two-day Congress on 29 May.

At a meeting between the three remaining candidates on 11 May, it was agreed that van Praag and Figo would withdraw, offering their support to Prince Ali Al-Hussain. ‘I do believe that he is the one candidate who has the largest chance to mobilise enough votes to beat mister Blatter’, read van Praag’s resignation statement. ‘One thing stood out, one thing was agreed upon in every corner of the world: FIFA needs to change. My motivation to run for the Presidency was never because I wanted to change functions, I am perfectly happy where I am right now. But I felt – and I still feel – that FIFA needs to do better. And that it is impossible that FIFA moves forward with its current leadership. This is why I decided to challenge mister Blatter. We need change in governance, in leadership, and in the culture of FIFA. We need to embrace criticism as an encouragement to be better. We need to be transparent and answer to the highest ethical standards. We need to get back to normal, to serve the sport and the member states instead of ourselves.’

Figo outlined that over the past few months, he had met many people who shared his desire to clean up ‘FIFA’s reputation as an obscure organisation that is so often viewed as a place of corruption’. However, his resignation statement also said that he had ‘witnessed consecutive incidents, all over the world, that should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic’.

Figo said that he had ‘seen with my own eyes federation Presidents who, after one day comparing FIFA leaders to the devil, then go on stage and compare those same people with Jesus Christ. Nobody told me about this. I saw it with my own eyes’. He also said that the FIFA Presidential candidates ‘were prevented from addressing federations at congresses while one of the candidates always gave speeches on his own from the rostrum’.

He also criticised the fact that there has not been a single public debate about each of the candidate’s proposals. ‘Does anyone think it’s normal that an election for one of the most relevant organizations on the planet can go ahead without a public debate? Does anyone think it’s normal that one of the candidates doesn’t even bother to present an election manifesto that can be voted on May 29? Shouldn’t it be mandatory to present such a manifesto so that federation presidents know what they’re voting for? That would be normal, but this electoral process is anything but an election.’

FIFA has yet to issue a response to the resignation statements, however Article 1.4 of the Electoral Regulations for the FIFA Presidency require that those running for the office of FIFA President to ‘conduct all campaigns with dignity and moderation and with respect for any other candidate(s), for FIFA itself and its members’. They also mandate that those running for the office of FIFA President are bound by FIFA’s Code of Ethics.

Article 13.3 of the Code of Ethics requires persons bound by it to ‘show commitment to an ethical attitude. They shall behave in a dignified manner and act with complete credibility and integrity.’ Article 14 also requires them to be ‘politically neutral’ in their dealings with other football bodies. ‘The Ethics Committee shall reserve the right to investigate and to judge the conduct of all persons bound by this Code even if they are not performing their duties if such conduct is likely to seriously damage the integrity, image or reputation of FIFA’, reads Article 27 of the Code of Ethics.

FIFA approved a new Code of Ethics in 2012, after pledging in 2010 to investigate allegations of corruption during the bidding process to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The Electoral Regulations were published in June 2014. Former FIFA deputy General Secretary Jérôme Champagne announced his intention to stand for FIFA President in September 2014, but withdrew on 31 January, as he was not put forward by a Member Association and had failed to attract support from five of them, as required by the new Electoral Regulations.

The same Regulations also ensure absolute privacy of the Presidential voting process. ‘A secret ballot shall always be conducted, regardless of how many candidates there are’, reads Article 17, paragraph 1 of the Regulations. ‘The secrecy of the ballot shall be guaranteed by the provision of a procedure ensuring privacy for the voter’.

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