Landslide FEI Vote to Change Charter So Princess Haya Can Seek 3rd Term as President

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Princess Haya at the FEI General Assembly. © 2014 Germain Arias-Schreiber/FEI
Princess Haya at the FEI General Assembly. © 2014 Germain Arias-Schreiber/FEI

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, April 29, 2014–The International Equestrian Federation global membership came within three votes of an unanimous decision Tuesday to change the charter of the governing body of horse sports to enable Princess Haya to seek a third term as president.

The Princess, who will turn 40 years of age next week, indicated after the vote of 103 in favor and three against that she will seek a third four-year term when the ultimate policy making General Assembly holds its annual meeting at the end of the year.

“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 honor,” a visibly moved princess said.

“I’m very honored 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.”

Switzerland has announced its support for Pierre Genecand, a Swiss businessman and former president of the Geneva horse show, though his candidacy has not been officially declared.

The Swiss federation has been an outspoken critic of the FEI’s handling of charges of doping and abuse of endurance horses, especially those owned and competed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and husband of Princess Haya.

Following the election, the FEI announced steps to improve protection of horses in endurance, proposing athlete penalties for horse injuries, extended rest periods and increased accountability to also deal with conflict of interest.

The vote reversed a change in the charter that Princess Haya championed after her inaugural election in 2006 to place a limit of two four-year terms on the presidency of the body that is based in Lausanne, Switzerland and governs the Olympic equestrian sports of dressage, eventing and jumping as well as driving, endurance, reining and vaulting plus para-dressage.

It will now restrict the term of the president to three terms instead of two, though prior to Princess Haya’s election there had been no term limit. Since the 1950s, three of her predecessors were in office more than eight years with Great Britain’s Prince Philip holding the record at 22 years. She is only the second non-European to hold the office since the first president in 1921–the other was General Guy V. Henry of the United States from 1931 to 1935.

The extraordinary General Assembly also unanimously supported creation of a FEI Olympic Council to act as a more permanent liaison with the Olympic movement in an attempt to protect the place of equestrian sport in the Games.

The council will be chaired by the FEI President and include all International Olympic Committee members and honorary members with an equestrian background, the chairs of the FEI Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing Committees, the FEI Secretary General and other representatives invited by the FEI President.