By Jonathan Rest
Princess Haya of Jordan today made the surprise decision not to seek re-election as president of the FEI, the international equestrian federation, despite power brokers in the sport having called for a change in the statutes to allow her to stay on beyond the present limit of two four-year terms.
Under reforms enacted when she took the FEI reins in 2006, Princess Haya, the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, would not have been able to seek re-election for a third term in 2014, but two months ago the FEI's nine regional group chairs, on behalf of their respective national federations, put in a formal request that the governing body's statutes be modified at the general assembly in Montreux, Switzerland on November 5 to 7 so that the tenure of the president may include one additional four-year term.
Indeed, the FEI told Sportcal only last week that amendments to its statutes must be approved by a two-thirds majority of all 130 cast votes, and that a dedicated 90-minute session to discuss the presidential issue had been inserted into the general assembly schedule on November 6.
Breido Graf zu Rantzau, president of the FN, the German equestrian federation, said recently that the statutes would likely be changed to allow Princess Haya to remain in office because "we see no other candidate who has a chance."
However, there had been rumblings among some of the European federations, principally the Swiss and Dutch, that they would oppose such a change.
Charles Trolliet, president of the Swiss equestrian federation, claimed recently that the FEI's attempts to reduce overall doping offences in the Endurance discipline were undermined by "conflict of interest in the highest appointment of the FEI."
Princess Haya is married to Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, whose Middle East Endurance and horse racing operations have been implicated in doping cases. The Sheikh's Goldolphin UK stables were also recently the subject of a major doping scandal.
Princess Haya said in a statement today that she will respect the presidential term limits, which are "essential to ensure fresh thinking and avoid a sense of entitlement within the leadership of an international sport federation", and would step down in November 2014.
As a result, she will lose her membership of the International Olympic Committee, which she has held since 2007 through her position as a governing body president.
Princess Haya explained: "While I very much appreciate and am honoured by efforts of the FEI regional group chairpersons and the national federations to amend the FEI statutes to permit me, or any FEI president to seek a third term, my views on the benefits of a two-term limit have not changed since the day I was elected. I love being FEI president. I am passionate about the work and our sport. I love the people I work with at the national federations and at headquarters.
"However, 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. I am deeply grateful to all the national federations that favour changing the statutes to allow me a third term. I am confident they will understand why I feel I must keep my word when my current term ends next year.
"I was first elected to this job seven years ago because our national federations wanted transparency, good governance and change and I promised a transformational presidency. Together, through thick and thin, we have achieved more than 80 per cent of all pledges laid down in my manifesto and programme in an open, democratic and transparent manner. I am so very proud of the people who worked together with me to achieve this."
Princess Haya won a convincing victory in presidential elections in November 2010, taking 90 of the 124 votes on offer in the first and only round of voting.
Sven Holmberg, the first vice-president of the FEI, received 23 votes, while Henk Rottinghuis, a former vice-president of the Netherlands Equestrian Federation, who had been tipped as the possible victor, had just 11 backers.
Rottinghuis left his position on the FEI audit and compliance committee immediately after the vote, while Holmberg quit three months later.
Princess Haya succeeded Spain’s Infanta Dona Pilar de Borbon, who stepped down as FEI president after serving 12 years in the post, in May 2006.