By Kitinan Sanguansak
The Football Association of Thailand's Electoral Committee yesterday decided against approving Worawi Makudi's presidential election win that would have seen him retain the post for a fourth consecutive term.
Worawi, 62, won Thursday’s poll with 42 votes against challenger Virach Chanpanich’s 28 and was set to keep a post he has held since 2007. But three of the five-member Electoral Committee were unconvinced by Worawi’s claim that the poll was the FA’s “cleanest” ever, after the vote was held five months late and marred by several allegations of irregularities.
One such was the dispute over voting rights for six of the 72 clubs eligible to vote, with allegations that outsiders had been drafted in to take the place of the six clubs’ own representatives in the election.
A sudden change of the entire appeal committee that oversaw the six clubs’ case stirred further rumours of corruption.
Electoral Committee member Chanint Kaenhiran yesterday called a conference at the Golden Tulip Sovereign hotel, the same venue that hosted the election, to explain that he and two other members including the chairman had not approved the result because they believed the vote was unjust.
“As someone who has conducted elections, both nationally and locally, for four years, I found it difficult to approve the result yesterday. We had a case in which people were taking the place of the clubs’ representatives. “On the eve of the poll, we held a hearing for those clubs in dispute over voting rights and made a ruling on each case. Our decision was based on Fifa criteria that call for priority for people from the club’s management.
“However, just a few hours before the election, the ‘new’ appeal panel decided to reverse our ruling without reasonable explanation. Then, they failed to check whether the clubs in question wanted to appeal the decision.
“We also saw the change of the appeal committee as lacking transparency, so we were unable to approve the outcome” of the poll, said Chanint.
Chanint said that Thursday’s result would now be put before the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), who would decide whether to approve it or not.
Worawi, meanwhile, is reportedly continuing to insist that his election was free and fair, as witnessed by representatives of Fifa and the SAT. He appealed for the matter to be closed and for his opponents to show sportsmanship.
He added that Fifa and the SAT had already asked Thai FA to submit its new executive board.
Virach, however, claimed the election was not transparent and that politics had been used to influence voting.
“This goes against Fifa’s requirements for fair and transparent elections,” he said. “What I really cannot accept is that political power has been used to pressure club members [to change their allegiance]. Can Thai people accept this disgraceful result?”
Football fans have taken to the Internet to express their discontent at the outcome of the election, with one group launching a petition calling on Worawi to resign after his poor record as reflected by the national team’s form. Many also believe the poll lacked transparency and was riddled with irregularities that spoke of corruption.