FIFA will hold its presidential election to replace Sepp Blatter on Friday. Well, Friday unless candidate Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein gets his way. Prince Ali has gone to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport in an attempt to postpone the election because he wants transparency. And transparency in this case does not mean making the votes public. It would mean literally transparent voting booths, with the ballot as secret as always.
From the initial list of candidates, all of whom sound like Carmen Sandiego villains, we’re down to five. Prince Ali of Jordan; Sheikh Salman of Bahrain; Switzerland’s Gianni Infantino; France’s Jerome Champagne; and South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale. Sheikh Salman and Infantino are considered the front-runners.
Prince Ali has been seeking to install transparent voting booths for the election, a move turned down by FIFA, which claimed they weren’t feasible. In response, Prince Ali is having a number of the booths delivered to Zurich ahead of Friday’s election. Here’s what they’ll look like:
This whole thing is very weird. While the transparency means observers will be able to watch the members cast their votes, they won’t be able to see the actual votes themselves. The votes will remain secret.
So what’s the point? In previous elections, voters have been accused of documenting their own votes—photographing their ballots. The only possible reason for that would be to prove to whoever paid them off that they voted as they were supposed to. (In a situation where multiple candidates are handing out bribes, presumably to overlapping voters, this is a real consideration.) Transparent voting booths would not stop candidates from bribing voters, but they would introduce doubt into those candidates’ minds as to whether the voters were actually fulfilling their end of the deal.
Rather than accept transparent booths, FIFA will require voters to turn over their phones before casting their ballots. Seems like all of this could be solved by making everyone’s votes public, but hey, that’s why I’m blogging and not vacationing in Switzerland this week.