LONDON (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has appealed to sport’s highest tribunal over his request for transparent voting booths and independent scrutineers at Friday’s election for the head of the global soccer body.
Prince Ali’s lawyers said they had requested a suspension to the election - setting up legal race to resolve the issue before the vote can take place.
Ali, whose request for transparent booths was rejected last week by FIFA, is unhappy with the arrangements for a vote expected to set a new tone of transparency for an organisation mired in the past in secret dealings.
“As a consequence, we are now seeking provisional measures before CAS to suspend the coming election on Friday 26th of February,” his lawyers said.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) did not address the the request for a delay in its statement, but said it would decide on a request by Ali for “provisional measures” by Thursday.
With the governance of the world’s most popular sport at stake, and the conduct of ballots for the hosts of the next two World Cups already being called into question in criminal investigations, all eyes will be on how the election is carried out as well as the result.
Having rejected the Jordanian prince’s offer to make transparent booths available to the congress, FIFA has said it would instead ask voters to leave their mobile phones outside while choosing between the five candidates.
Ali wants the transparent booths to ensure delegates do not photograph their ballot papers. This would prevent delegates coming under pressure to produce evidence of their vote to interested parties.
Prince Ali’s lawyers said that requesting delegates to surrender their phones was “not sufficient”.
“FIFA remains silent upon the measures to enforce it and sanctions associated with it,” it said.
The CAS statement said: “Prince Ali seeks an order that FIFA be directed to use transparent voting booths, as well as independent scrutineers, in order to safeguard the integrity of the voting process and to ensure the vote is conducted in secret.”
FIFA and Ali himself were not immediately available for comment. Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou said in a letter to the member associations on Monday that he was confident this week’s Extraordinary FIFA Congress in Zurich would start the process of restoring the global soccer body’s credibility.
Under FIFA statutes, voting is secret.
FIFA’s 209 member national associations (FAs) each hold one vote at the election where Ali is among five candidates standing to replace outgoing President Sepp Blatter, who is banned for eight years. He denies any wrongdoing.
Ali and Jerome Champagne, one of his rivals, both say that continental federations, who do not vote, hold undue influence over the FAs. However, as long as the voting is secret, FAs can ignore pressure to vote as a block without being found out.
Ali’s lawyers said FIFA had objected to their demand for an expedited appeal hearing to deliver a verdict before Friday’s vote, prompting them to ask CAS, sport’s highest court, to suspend the election.
Additional reporting by Julien Pretot in Paris; Writing by Brian Homewood in Zurich; Editing by Alison Williams