ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA’s presidential election should go ahead as planned on Feb. 26 and not be delayed due to the suspensions of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan said on Wednesday.
World soccer chief Blatter and UEFA boss Platini were suspended by FIFA's Ethics Committee last week, engulfed by a deepening corruption scandal as their sport faces criminal investigations in Switzerland and the United States.
FIFA’s ruling executive committee will hold an emergency meeting on Oct. 20 and the possibility of delaying the election of its next leader is likely to be on the agenda.
"Delaying the scheduled election would only postpone needed change and create further instability," Ali said in a statement, his first since the banning of Blatter and Platini.
"It would tell the world that lessons haven’t been learned, that the same backroom deals that have discredited FIFA in the first place continue,” he said.
A 2011 payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.09 million) from FIFA to Frenchman Platini is part of a Swiss criminal investigation into Blatter, in which the UEFA boss is considered as someone “between a witness and an accused person”, according to Swiss judicial authorities.
Platini has said the payment was for his work under contract for FIFA as an advisor to Swiss-born Blatter between 1999 and 2002, and the nine-year payment delay was due to FIFA's financial situation. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
An election delay would give Platini more time to appeal against his 90-day provisional ban. The ban, together with a possible 45-day extension and the length of any appeals process, are seen as major obstacles to his campaign.
Without Platini in the field, Ali’s chances of winning could rise significantly. As it stands, the deadline for nominations is Oct. 26 and prospective candidates face a FIFA integrity check.
“Candidates have had plenty of time to declare and still do. The rules should not be changed after the game has started,” Ali said.
The prince, supported at the time by Platini, lost to Blatter in May's presidential election. But Blatter announced four days later that he would lay down his mandate as crisis engulfed FIFA.
Platini then dropped his support for Ali and decided to run in February’s vote. He was the favorite before being caught up in the scandal himself.
African football leader Issa Hayatou is the interim president of FIFA during Blatter's 90-day suspension.
“The Ethics Committee must now be allowed to do its work in a robust and timely fashion,” Ali said. "With FIFA’s crisis deepening, the organization needs to move beyond interim leadership and elect an accountable president."
($1 = 0.9570 Swiss francs)
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Tom Heneghan