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No winner in first round of voting for FIFA soccer head

No winner in first round of voting for FIFA soccer head
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks at the organization's Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, on... (Patrick B. Kraemer / European Pressphoto Agency)

The presidency of FIFA remained up in the air after embattled President Sepp Blatter failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority in a first round of balloting Friday against Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

A second round of voting then began with a simple majority needed. Blatter who is seeking a fifth term at the organization's annual Congress, has vowed reforms but in a speech before the vote, announced no fundamental change in the global soccer group's oversight structure.

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Blatter opened the session by acknowledging the scandal in which 14 people, the majority of them current or former FIFA officials, have been indicted on bribery and corruption charges. "Some had questioned" whether the Congress would take place as a result, Blatter said, but "‎today I'm appealing to unity and a team spirit so we can move forward together."

He later added that those indicted ‎"are individuals -- they are not the entire organization" and asked that FIFA's federations and member as‎sociations increase self-policing‎, but he did not suggest any outside oversight.

He also told delegates from the 209 member associations that he would take responsibility for the ethics of FIFA "but I'd like to share that responsibility with you."

Blatter sounded a mostly conciliatory tone during his remarks but did take a more aggressive stance toward the U.S.-led investigation twice. ‎Speaking of the controversial decisions on which countries should host the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar) World Cup tournaments, he said that "if two other countries had emerged from the envelope I think we would not have had problems today," an apparent allusion to the U.S.' and Britain's failed bids.

And noting that the U.S. federal indictments in the case came the week of FIFA's presidential election -- set for later in the day -- he said, "I'm not going to use coincidence but I do have a small question mark."

The scandal has created a dramatic backdrop for the election in which Blatter is running against reformist challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

‎The chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala, also addressed the delegates, saying that in the wake of the scandal the group was creating "revised provisions for bribery and corruption" and "‎compulsory integrity checks‎."

The pledges, however, were materially similar to those that had been made in the past, and are unlikely to allay critics who say the group needs more fundamental reform.

Scala defended the organization's policies by saying that "FIFA as taken the lead in self-regulation and delivered an impressive list of changes to its governance," and added that this "r‎equires more than a set of instruments -- it requires recognition that a culture needs to change."

The gathering was delayed by a bomb threat, prompting Swiss authorities to clear the room during a lunch break. It was searched and declared safe.

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT

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