LAUSANNE, Switzerland, May 2–Sweden’s Sven Holmberg and The Netherlands’ Henk Rottinghuis, both officials of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), declared they are challenging Princess Haya for the presidency of the group that governs horse sports world wide.
The names of Holmberg, Rottinghuis and Haya were announced Sunday after nominations for the post closed at midnight Central European time Saturday, May 1. The election of the president for a four-year term is by a two-thirds majority of the 133 national equestrian federations at the FEI General Assembly, to be held this year in Taipei in Nov. 5.
Haya was elected in 2006 for her first term as president, that under current rules is limited to two terms.
If at least two candidates remain in the race to November, this year could be only the second time that an election has been held for the top office of the body governing dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting as well as para equestrian. In 2006 three candidates were declared for the FEI Presidency, marking the first time ever that there had been an election for the post. In 2006, Haya was elected over Princess Benedikte of Denmark and then First Vice President Freddy Serpieri of Greece.
* Haya, 36, represented her native Jordan as a show jumper at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is married to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
* Holmberg has extensive involvement in international and Swedish equestrian activities and is the current first vice president, the FEI’s second-in-charge, as well as chairman of the International Jumping Committee. He has strongly and publicly opposed any easing of drug rules, although it put him on the opposite side of the issue to Haya.
* Henk Rottinghuis, 53, led the Dutch equestrian federation from 1999 to 2004 and steered it through an amalgamation of 14 different groups into a single national organization with almost 200,000 members. He was chairman of the family-run Pon Holdings, with 10,000 employees in 12 countries, specializing in automotive and industrial equipment before retiring last month. At the 2009 General Assembly, he was elected a member for three years of the FEI Audit and Compliance Committee.
The princess’s first term as president has been marked by controversies–including dissolving the Dressage Committee. The latest controversy involved the disqualification of the American combination McLain Ward and Sapphire when they were leading after two of three rounds of the World Cup Final in Geneva earlier this month, under so-called “protocols” whose applications have been widely challenged. The issue of doping, specifically non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), has also sharply divided the FEI membership, with most major European federations opposed to any easing of a total ban.