UPDATE: 1.30PM ET, FRI MAY 29 – Sepp Blatter was re-elected as Fifa President after his sole challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, withdrew rather than force a second round of voting.
In his speech before the first vote, the 79-year-old Blatter promised that reform of the beleaguered organization would begin “tomorrow.”
UPDATE: 1PM ET, FRI MAY 29 – There will be a second round of voting, after the first round did not produce the two-thirds majority required. Prince Ali received 73 votes, Sepp Blatter received 133.
In the second round, a simple majority will be sufficient.
UPDATE: 11AM ET, FRI MAY 29 – Voting is under way. Both candidates addressed the Congress before the 209 member countries began casting their votes.
UPDATE: 9AM ET, FRI MAY 29 – As the latest allegations of corruption against World football’s governing body continue to swirl, voting is expected to start within the next hour in the election for Fifa President.
Incumbent Sepp Blatter, who has led Fifa for 17 years, is seeking a fifth term in office. He has only one challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Uefa has signaled it will vote for the Prince, while other influential figures have supported Blatter, making it likely that neither candidate will secure a two-thirds majority. In that event there will be a run-off, with a simple majority of the 209 members sufficient.
You can watch proceedings live on YouTube via FifaTV here:
On Friday morning Blatter called for “unity” ahead of the voting, saying that Fifa was “at a turning point” in the wake of this week’s arrests of several top officials.
His address was briefly interrupted by Palestinian protesters, with the Congress due to discuss a motion to expel Israel.
MIDNIGHT ET, THURS 28
(The Independent/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)
Fifa President Sepp Blatter continues to resist calls to step aside in light of the latest corruption allegations swamping the organization, and appears poised to win re-election to a fifth term on Friday in Zurich.
Uefa chief Michel Platini on Thursday urged Blatter to resign, but in a speech formally opening Fifa’s Congress, Blatter vowed to “fix” the organization, saying he could not be held responsible for others’ actions and that “It must fall to me to uphold responsibility for the well-being of the organisation.”
World Football Insider reported that Platini had later been in discussions with officials from other associations ahead of Friday’s vote. Meanwhile, the head of US Soccer Sunil Gulati said that he will be among those supporting Blatter’s only challenger, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, and that the election could be “closer than people were projecting some weeks ago.”
Despite protests on the streets of Zurich, Blatter received public backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denounced the arrests of Fifa officials as US overreach and said it was all a plot to ruin Russia’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018. Joshua Keating writes at Slate:
Putin does have reason to worry: After yesterday’s arrests, Swiss officials announced that they are opening an investigation into allegations of corruption in the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The Russian bid has faced allegations of bribery since the decision was made in 2010, including reports in the British press that a senior European soccer official was given a Picasso in exchange for his support. A controversial FIFA-commissioned investigation—that was subsequently disowned by its own investigator—cleared Russia along with Qatar of any wrongdoing last year, though it also noted that the Russian bid team had made “only a limited amount of documents available for review.”
As is often the case, though, regardless of what happens both with Friday’s leadership election and how the corruption allegations play out, it will be the World Cup sponsors who likely have the biggest stick to bring about change within Fifa. And, so far, they’re keeping their cards close to their chests.
The FT looks at how the “moneymaking machine still spins.”
* POLITICS * In a development that appeared to take Washington genuinely by surprise, BuzzFeed reported that former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was indicted on “reporting evasion charges and lying to the FBI as part of an effort to conceal paying off the victim of “prior bad acts.”
The indictment appeared to raise more questions than it answered.
In an editorial, the Chicago Tribune writes:
This isn’t just yet another Illinois politician winding up in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors. The underlying narrative leaves much to the imagination. The bottom line is that Hastert allegedly agreed in 2010 to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed person to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.”
Details of the “prior misconduct” aren’t spelled out in the indictment. The criminal wrongdoing charged by prosecutors is limited to Hastert’s alleged attempts to conceal the payments.
The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza explains why.
Why this race for Pataki though, as opposed to the one in 2012, which he also considered entering? For the same reason that the other 15 or 16 or 20 Republicans are going to run: It’s the most wide-open fight for a presidential nomination in modern history. This is the “why not me” race of a lifetime for Republican pols; just look at the new Quinnipiac University national poll that shows five(!) candidates tied for the lead — each with 10 percent! Sure, Pataki thinks, I’m a long shot. But if ever a long shot was going to come through, this is the race where it would happen.
Then there is the x-factor that running for president has proven to be a very lucrative career move for plenty of candidates, like Pataki, who were considered long shots at the start of a campaign. Mike Huckabee went from obscurity in 2008 to a book deal, TV show, celebrity and wealth today. (And yes, he, like every other Republican, is running for president in 2016.) Rick Santorum benefited greatly from losing the 2012 presidential race. Herman Cain, too.
* WORLD * A conference is being held in Bangkok to address South East Asia’s growing migrant crisis. The BBC reports that representatives of 17 countries and the UN are taking part but “many of those attending are not ministerial-level and the talks are unlikely to produce a binding agreement or even a plan of action.”
Spectacular TV footage captured the moment a volcano erupted on a small Japanese island early on Friday.