The Latest: Voting starts in FIFA presidential election
Tokyo Sexwale, Candidate for FIFA President, of South Africa, right, speaks to other candidates Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, of Jordan, left, and Gianni Infantino, of Switzerland, center, during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016 held at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. The Extraordinary FIFA Congress is being held in order to vote on the proposals for amendments to the FIFA Statutes and choose the new FIFA President. (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)

ZURICH: The Latest on the FIFA election (all times local):

1:50 p.m.

Voting has begun in the FIFA presidential election with Afghanistan filling in the first of 207 ballot papers.

The first-round result is expected to be known in about two hours, with four candidates in the contest.

Tokyo Sexwale withdrew from the vote during his final speech to voters.


1:45 p.m.

Tokyo Sexwale has withdrawn from the FIFA presidential vote during a lively, entertaining and unscripted speech to voters.

Sexwale, who was the last of five candidates to address 207 voters, says “my campaign is suspended as of now.”

He pledged he is ready to serve the new president before leaving the stage to a standing ovation from many delegates.


1:30 p.m.

FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino switched between English, Italian, French and Spanish as he discussed each confederation’s needs directly in his address to FIFA voters.

The UEFA general secretary portrayed himself as a leader for the world, not just his own confederation, by saying “we have to get Europe to do much more.”

Infantino also defended spending pledges which have been criticized by Bahraini rival Sheikh Salman, the Asian soccer confederation president. Infantino has committed to offering each of FIFA’s 209 members $5 million to invest in development projects and running costs — a huge increase on the $2.05 million per federation from 2011-14 — on top of other payouts.

The Swiss-Italian says “the money is your money not the FIFA president’s,” earning applause from the congress room in Zurich.


1:25 p.m.

Jerome Champagne has aligned himself with outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter in his speech to voters.

The former FIFA international relations director says he has been loyal to the scandal-hit organization.

Champagne worked for FIFA in the first 11 years of Blatter reign, and says he has shown “fidelity … never attacked it, never attacked the leaders.”

He says he shares a world vision for FIFA like Blatter, and his former boss’s predecessor Joao Havelange. Both men left FIFA because of allegations of financial wrongdoing.

After reminding voters that he has an “unblemished background,” Champagne points to his track record working in Africa.

Champagne recalls “the fight we had to take the (2010) World Cup there. Vote for the candidate who is truly independent and has knowledge of the world.”


1:15 p.m.

FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman has urged soccer nations to elect him because he will not damage the governing body’s finances.

The Asian soccer confederation president earlier this week told The Associated Press that rival Gianni Infantino’s plan to significantly hike cash handouts to federations would “bankrupt” FIFA.

Acting FIFA secretary general Markus Kattner said FIFA is facing a $550 million financial deficit in the four-year cycle up to the 2018 World Cup.

Sheikh Salman says “we have to act responsibly … I am not ready to mortgage the future of FIFA for election purposes.”

The Bahraini royal gained early applause from the Zurich congress when he said it was “better to speak from the heart rather than be dictated through a paper.”

Sheikh Salman pointed to his track record in Asia after replacing former AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam.

Referencing FIFA’s attempt to recover from corruption scandals, Sheikh Salman says “we went through the same ordeal” as other confederations are now going through.


1 p.m.

Prince Ali says he is the only FIFA presidential candidate with a “genuine commitment to a new style of leadership.”

Addressing FIFA’s problems, Prince Ali says “football has thrived but, without doubt, FIFA has floundered.”

The Jordanian prince was the first of the five candidates to make a speech of no more than 15 minutes to the 207 voters, speaking immediately before front-runner Sheikh Salman.

Prince Ali says FIFA should have “no acceptance” of mismanagement, corruption, self-interest, racism, sexism or human rights violations — a clear reference to Bahrain’s detention and alleged abuse of national team players who took part in Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Prince Ali says “the game and its players will be protected from any exploitations.”


12:50 p.m.

Sepp Blatter says he would have preferred someone other than the five candidates now standing to replace him as the president of FIFA.

The long-time FIFA president told Swiss daily Aargauer Zeitung in an interview published Friday that “the one that I want isn’t even a candidate.” He declined to say who that was.

Blatter said he spoke with all candidates except Prince Ali of Jordan in recent months, declining to name a favorite among them. But he questioned Gianni Infantino’s plan to raise annual financial support for poor federations to $1 million, saying FIFA can’t afford that amount.

Blatter also criticized the FIFA appeal body’s decision to reduce both his and Michel Platini’s bans from eight years to six based on their long service to soccer, saying his punishment should have been “much milder.”

The two were found guilty of wrongdoing by FIFA’s independent ethics committee last year over a previously-secret 2011 financial transaction.

The 79-year-old Swiss official told the paper he would turn down any offer to become a whistleblower for U.S. justice authorities, whose probe into corruption at FIFA triggered a major overhaul of the organization.


12:40 p.m.

The FIFA presidential election has started with candidates making their final pitches to voters.

Prince Ali is the first candidate on stage to make a speech of no more than 15 minutes. The five are called in alphabetical order.

Tokyo Sexwale, who has been energetic in Zurich after a lackluster campaign, will be last.

The voting process is likely to take up to two hours for 207 officials to walk up to one of two voting booths, and later count their paper ballots.

FIFA will prevent mobile devices in the booths. In previous elections, some voters have allegedly shown photos of their votes in return for bribes.

No candidate is likely to reach the two-thirds majority of 138 vote needed for a decisive win. A simple majority of 104 is needed for victory in subsequent rounds.

All candidates can stay in for a possible second round, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated before a third round.


11:30 a.m.

FIFA members have passed wide-ranging reforms to protect against corruption and curb the powers of its new president.

Needing a 75 percent majority for approval, 89 percent voted yes. FIFA says the ballot was 179-22 in favor.

The vote was taken after the Palestine soccer federation argued for a delay to let the new president lead the process.

Outgoing president Sepp Blatter ordered the reform review in June after American and Swiss federal investigations hit FIFA.

FIFA and its lawyers hope the reform will help show U.S. prosecutors the soccer body is serious about changing its culture, and protect its status as a victim in the American investigation.

Many decision-making powers will be stripped from the president and executive committee, to be renamed the FIFA Council with more female members.

Term limits of 12 years and stricter integrity checks will also control top officials.


10:40 a.m.

Acting FIFA secretary general Markus Kattner says staff morale has been hit by a looming $550 million financial deficit.

Kattner tells the FIFA election congress there is “general uncertainty that is affecting morale of the FIFA team.”

He says “we are currently $550 million behind our goals” to reach a budget target of $5 billion revenue from the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

FIFA has not signed any new World Cup sponsors since the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Since American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption hit FIFA last May, officials have cautioned that potential sponsors would wait until after the election to replace Sepp Blatter before committing.

Kattner says FIFA is “optimistic of concluding contracts” soon.

FIFA will publish its 2015 financial report next month. It is expected to show a loss of at least $100 million.


10:30 a.m.

On the day of the FIFA presidential election, security forces are on the streets of Bahrain’s capital in a sizeable show of force rarely seen since the island nation’s 2011 uprising.

Sheikh Salman, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family, is one of the favorites to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.

It’s not clear what security forces were preparing for Friday ahead of noon prayers, but travel within Manama was nearly impossible.

Sheikh Salman repeatedly has denied having any role in Bahraini soccer players being identified and arrested during the 2011 crackdown by the government led by his family, the island’s Sunni rulers.

It also comes after security forces in eastern Saudi Arabia killed a Bahraini man several days ago.


10:10 a.m.

IOC President Thomas Bach has told soccer leaders that new standards of governance are now required as they prepare to elect a new president.

In an attempt to prevent corruption, 207 nations were also voting on reforms at soccer’s governing body.

Bach told the FIFA extraordinary congress that “we live in a world that is asking new questions … you can’t compare the standards of good governance of yesterday with the requirements of today.”

FIFA has been fighting for its future since leading officials, including vice presidents, were indicted in a U.S. bribery and racketeering investigation.

Urging FIFA members to adopt the reforms, Bach says “you have this great chance to turn the page and start a new chapter for football.”

Sepp Blatter wasn’t at the Zurich congress to hand over power to a new FIFA president because he is serving a six-year ban from soccer for financial mismanagement.

Bach says “you are electing your new team leader. Today you are deciding your new game strategy.”


9:45 a.m.

Soccer leaders have gathered in Zurich to elect a new FIFA president, with Asian confederation head Sheikh Salman the favorite to succeed Sepp Blatter.

The presidential election is to begin at about 1300 GMT following speeches by the five candidates.

Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term in May but, amid escalating corruption scandals, bowed to pressure four days later and announced he would resign. Blatter was subsequently banned for six years for financial mismanagement.

Before electing FIFA’s first new president since 1998, the 207 nations eligible to vote will be asked to approve reforms intended to prevent further corruption and bribery scandals.

Those include preventing presidents from serving more than three four-year terms and reducing their powers.

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