Princess Haya has signalled her intention to seek a third presidential term after FEI member nations voted overwhelmingly to change the statutes of the world governing body to allow a third four-year term in the role.
The vote was taken in Lausanne, Switzerland, during today’s Extraordinary General Assembly, which also approved the option of third terms for FEI Bureau members and unanimously supported the formation of an FEI Olympic Council to promote the interests of equestrian sport within the wider Olympic movement.
Princess Haya, who removed herself from the chair for the votes on the term extensions, returned to the auditorium after the ballots were cast to a standing ovation. She was clearly moved by the show of support.
She thanked nations for their vote and signalled that she would run again. She promised member nations that she was listening to what they had to say.
FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos, who chaired the assembly during the votes on the term extensions, confirmed that a quorum was comfortably present, noting that 67 national federations were present and 42 nations were represented by proxy, bringing the total to 109. The late arrival of another brought the tally to 110 before the first vote was taken. Twenty-one of the FEI’s 131 member nations were not represented.
Each of the constitutional changes required a two-thirds majority of those present to be carried.
A total of 103 member nations voted in favour of extending the presidency to three four-year terms, comfortably carrying the motion. Three voted against the proposal and no abstentions were recorded.
The addition of a potential third term for FEI Bureau members was not supported as strongly, but the 77 votes in favour comfortably passed the threshold of 70 required for a two-thirds majority. Twenty-seven nations voted against the proposal and there was one abstention.
Haya then returned to the auditorium to the standing ovation.
“Thank you very much,” she told national delegates.
“I can tell you that I could not have asked for more than what you have told me today.
“I had previously believed that the person in charge of the FEI should have a term of eight years.
“I have always tried to listen to what you have to say – sometimes well, sometimes not so well. This time I am listening,” she told delegates.
She assured delegates she was committed to the role of president.
“I always felt that when people are given a responsibility, given faith and given belief they are given an opportunity to do well in their lives and that’s what you’ve always given to me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It’s a huge honour.
“I’m very honoured for the opportunity you’ve given me to be available as a future president of the FEI for a third term. I don’t want to go further than that today because I do believe there’s the possibility that there’ll be other candidates and I believe they should be given the opportunity to come forward. But at the same time you have my commitment to you.”
Nominations for the presidency close in mid-June. Pierre Genecand, nominated by the Swiss federation, has already indicated his intention to stand for the presidency.
Had nations not passed the constitutional change, the princess would have been required to bow out this December at the General Assembly in Dubai, at the end of her second term.
The two-term maximum was promoted more than seven years ago by Haya, who won support for a constitutional change that brought in the limit.
Last July, the nine regional group chairs of the FEI agreed unanimously to seek a statute change that would allow the princess to stay.
The proposal was set to go to a vote before the FEI’s General Assembly in Montreux, Switzerland, last November, but six weeks before the meeting Haya announced that her view was unchanged: Eight years was enough for anyone in the role, she said.
She thanked member nations for the sentiment, but indicated she would be standing down at the 2014 General Assembly, as required. She said: “I cannot in good conscience put aside my beliefs and the commitment I made seven years ago now that the term limit I supported applies to me.”
Behind the scenes, 100 member nations then backed a call for today’s Extraordinary General Assembly to amend the constitution in any case, to allow three four-year terms for the president.
In effect, member nations were hoping that if the option for a third term was available, Haya might be persuaded to stay on.
The Extraordinary General Assembly unanimously passed the resolution forming the Olympic Council.
Haya told delegates there may come a time when the FEI president was not a member of the International Olympic Committee, and the proposed council was a sensible approach to maintaining links to the IOC should that ever be the case.