World football governing body, FIFA, has set up a Committee to oversee the ongoing electoral dispute in the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF).
The Committee is expected to hear from all stakeholders, including the former Chairman of FIF’s electoral body, René Diby, the body’s General Secretary, Sam Etiassé and, presumably, Didier Drogba, whose candidacy started the whole saga.
René Diby resigned after he was accused by Etiassé of accepting Drogba’s application due to public pressure and alleged death threats, despite the forms not meeting the requirements.
The Committee will consist of two representatives from FIFA – Rolf Tanner and Sarah Solémalé – two yet-to-be-named representatives from CAF and one rep from the Union of West African Football Associations.
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Drogba’s hopes of contesting the polls seemed to be over last Thursday after his application was invalidated.
However, he seemed to have been handed a lifeline by football’s world governing body, FIFA who directed that the polls be suspended citing possible “third party interference.“
“Pending your documents and information, we invite you to suspend all actions relating to the electoral process until further notice,” FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura wrote to FIF’s electoral commission.
“Some say that the commission has been prevented from exercising its activities in total calm and an independent manner because of outside interference.”
According to the BBC, FIFA has also asked for a full list of Electoral Commission members and the minutes from four meetings, including one in July where the new electoral commission president was elected and one in August involving FIF’s Executive Committee.
Drogba’s candidacy had been initially validated, despite some issues with his application, leading to the suspension of the elections and FIF’s Electoral Committee.
FIFA, however, reinstated the Committee and the elections, with the electoral body opting to invalidate Drogba’s candidacy.
It had been doubtful that Drogba’s application would be accepted, with concerns raised over whether he could meet the election requirements.
The Ivory Coast Footballers Association (AFI), one of the five main interest groups in Ivorian football had refused to endorse his candidacy, drawing a suspension from FIFPro.
However, Drogba’s application was controversially accepted after he got the endorsements of three Ivorian Ligue 1 clubs, two Ligue 2 clubs, two Championnat Division 3 clubs and an interest group, the dissident referees.
The sponsorship from the dissident referees and Ivorian club Africa Sport, were deemed inadmissible by FIF, hence the invalidation of Drogba’s candidacy.
It’s unclear now whether the elections will now go ahead on September 5 with Sory Diabaté and Idriss Diallo as the only two approved candidates.
A statement signed by the outgoing president, Sidy Diallo, had earlier announced the suspension of the election stating that the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) which is responsible for validating the applications had “violated the electoral code ”
The statement also added that “the electoral process no longer inspires confidence and that the neutrality of certain members of the electoral body was in doubt.”
The Executive Committee said it had received complaints from some members of the electoral body about certain actions of its Chairman, René Diby, which put the integrity of the whole process in doubt.
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The Committee’s statement said it had “received a note, sent by 4 members of the Electoral Commission, denouncing the actions of the Chairman of their commission and declaring that they do not align themselves with the decisions that he and certain members of the commission have adopted.”
Diby had reportedly approved Drogba’s application due to pressure from the overwhelming popular support for Drogba’s candidacy, as hundreds of his supporters accompanied the former Chelsea striker to submit his forms.
He had believed that rejecting Drogba’s candidacy would have fuelled an already tense situation in the country with not just the FA Presidency elections but Ivory Coast’s presidential elections as well.
According to FIF, he admitted “to have acted in all naivety, to preserve social cohesion, in this sensitive period and to have found an ad hoc solution
This, FIF’s Executive Committee, felt compromised the elections.
The statement concluded that the Executive Committee of FIF will ensure that the electoral processes adhere to the statutes of FIF, CAF, and FIFA.
Drogba’s team had earlier stated that they would appeal to FIFA but it’s not clear whether an appeal has already been submitted.