FIFA Re-Elects Sepp Blatter President Amid Corruption Scandal
ZURICH, Switzerland, May 29 (UPI) — The international soccer organization FIFA re-elected President Sepp Blatter on Friday for a fifth term.
In an initial vote, Blatter got 133 votes, with his opponent, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan, getting 73. With neither candidate gaining a two-thirds majority, a second vote would’ve required a simple majority. Ali withdrew.
The vote, at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, comes after calls for Blatter’s ouster after a corruption scandal and the arrests this week of seven FIFA officials and five sports marketing executives. They were charged by U.S. prosecutors with receiving kickbacks of over $150 million, for votes on matters including the awarding of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The allegations date back as far as 20 years.
The vote on the presidency, by the FIFA World Congress’ 209 member associations, was by secret ballot.
Blatter, 79, has led FIFA for 17 years. He was not among those indicted, and acknowledged the organization’s shortcomings this week, while defiantly maintaining his innocence and rejecting calls to resign. He called Friday’s vote the first step on “the long and difficult road to rebuilding trust.”
“Let this be a turning point. More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football acts responsibly and ethically,” he said.
Blatter also deflected blame for the scandal, pinning perceived widespread corruption on “a few.”
FIFA members in Europe, as well as the United States, have called for Blatter to resign and were expected to support Ali, 39, in the election. Blatter still has his loyalists, though; the Asian Football Confederation of 46 voting members said Thursday it decried the alleged corruption but was prepared to stand with Blatter. A similar statement was made by the Confederation of African Football, which has 54 voting members.
Greg Dyke, of England’s Football Association, bluntly called for Blatter’s removal Thursday, saying, “This is about one thing: How do you rebuild the reputation of FIFA and turn it into an open, fair and honest organization with Blatter still at the helm? Blatter has put out a statement saying now is the time to start rebuilding the trust in FIFA. There is no way of rebuilding trust in FIFA while Sepp Blatter is still there. Sepp Blatter has to go. He either has to go through a resignation, or he has to be outvoted or we have to find a third way.”
German media reported Friday that police in Zurich confirmed a bomb threat near FIFA headquarters, although no other information has been forthcoming.
Another of the 18 items on the FIFA agenda is a motion by Palestine to suspend Israel from the organization, meaning an Israeli team could not qualify for the World Cup. The motion claims discrimination by Israel against Palestinian football, noting teams from five Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories play in the Israeli league.