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When the deadline for nominations in the UCI presidential election closed in June it looked like we were faced with a straight-up knock-down fight between two men: the title-holder, Pat McQuaid, and his challenger, Brian Cookson. But a controversial Constitutional amendment now being proposed by the Malaysian federation offers new candidates the chance the throw their hats into the ring.
Under existing rules anyone can stand in the UCI's presidential election so long as a) they receive the nomination of their home federation; and b) they get their nomination papers in ninety days ahead of the election. The rule change being proposed by the Malaysian federation would allow any two national federations to nominate a presidential candidate. The controversial aspect of the motion is that, rather than only being applicable to future elections, the Malaysian motion includes transitional provisions which would apply it to the current process, reopening the nomination process, which would have a new closing date of August 30.
McQuaid had originally been nominated by the Irish federation. As a condition of their support they called on the UCI to introduce a two-term limit for UCI presidents. Already a two-term president McQuaid said he would consider applying such a rule change to future elections. The Irish nomination though, was over-turned on procedural grounds and the matter put to the federation's member clubs, who in an extraordinary general meeting overwhelmingly rejected supporting McQuaid.
McQuaid then fell back on a nomination from the Swiss federation which is now being challenged in the courts, with three Swiss cycling members – Kurt Buergi, Mathias Galli and Patrick Calcagni – claiming that the nomination is unconstitutional and was made without proper authority. The legal challenge is due to be filed on August 6 with a hearing expected on August 22. It is possible that a decision will not be reached before the presidential election takes place five weeks later.
If the Malaysian amendment is passed at Congress then the outcome of that Swiss legal challenge may be rendered moot, with the UCI now revealing that McQuaid's nomination is also being supported by the Moroccan and Thai federations.
Commenting on this latest turn of events in an already contentious election process Jaimie Fuller – whose Skins company is underwriting the cost of the Swiss legal challenge – compared McQuaid in a press release to a third-world tin-pot dictator, saying: "The latest actions from UCI president Pat McQuaid are those of a desperate man trying to hold onto his dwindling power base. This abuse of process and power are unheard of in sports administration circles and his tactics most resemble those of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe."
Management Committee member Mike Plant – whose secret dossier on McQuaid is now apparently the focus of a UCI Ethics Committee investigation – has written to UCI Director General Christophe Hubschmid expressing his displeasure with the latest turn in events, stating that "the timing of this significant change to the presidential nomination process, less than sixty days from a very contested, globally visible and important election is unconscionable, unethical, dishonest, unprofessional, manipulative and destructive," in a letter published on VeloNews.
Former AIGCP president Jonathan Vaughters has compared the manner in which this proposed rule change has arisen to events during his time as a member of the Professional Cycling Council, where he says members were not consulted on matters concerning them, noting than in his four years on the PCC only one vote was ever held, and that was one he called himself. Vaughters has called on fans to email their opinions to the various national federations and confederations, the email addresses of which can be found on the UCI website.
In order to succeed, the Malaysian Constitutional amendment will need to obtain the support of two-thirds of the voting delegates at Congress, of whom there are forty-two. Asked if he believes that this motion will pass or is he confident it will be defeated at Congress, Cookson had this to say:
"I am confident that the UCI voting delegates share my concerns, and those of my colleagues on the UCI Management Committee, towards these developments.
"In my opinion, the efforts to change the nomination and electoral procedures midway through the election process are a clear sign of desperation from the incumbent President Pat McQuaid, and are nothing more than a fraught attempt to undemocratically and unconstitutionally impact the process while it is underway.
"I know that my colleagues on the UCI Management Committee have contacted the UCI Director General to raise strong concerns – and objections – to these proposals. I am similarly confident that the voting delegates will protect the UCI’s reputation in September by voting to reject these proposals at this time."
In the event that Cookson is unable to secure the support of the fifteen – one-third – voting delegates needed to block this Constitutional amendment it seems unlikely that he would then go on to gain the support of the twenty-two delegates needed to defeat McQuaid in the presidential election. Which would then open the door to the outcome of the election being challenged in the courts. Asked to comment on the possibility of a protracted legal challenge should this Constitutional amendment succeed Cookson said:
"The UCI Constitution is quite clear that candidates should be nominated by their own federation. Pat is shown with the designation (IRL) next to his name but, as is well known, Cycling Ireland withdrew his nomination. I am astonished to discover that Pat now has three nominations next to his name and is indeed a member of four National Federations.
"It seems to me that, at best, all of this is bringing the validity and impartiality of the terms and conditions of the electoral process into serious question. At worst, this is beginning to look like a concerted attempt to manipulate the election in an undemocratic and unconstitutional way."
Amendments to the Malaysian motion may be tabled up to thirty days before Congress opens on September 27.