It is the profile of the electorate, rather than of any of the eight candidates, that will be the key factor deciding the race to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA. The ballots will be cast in February by the 209 national member federations of global soccer’s governing body, with each association having one vote. That means that the countries housing the world’s most powerful leagues — such as England, Spain, Italy and Germany — each has the same voting power as such minnows as Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland, North Korea and New Zealand.
The winning candidate, then, will be the one capable of building the widest coalition of member federations. The secret to Blatter’s power, as well as that of his patron and predecessor João Havelange, was to redistribute resources, from the industrialized countries to the developing world. This didn’t necessarily involve corruption; often it was simply a case of earning the loyalty of a federation’s leadership by providing it with development funding and tournament hosting rights necessary to boost its domestic game.
While Blatter’s regime eventually drew so much public and legal clamor over allegations of corruption that FIFA’s sponsors turned on him, the electorate, deeply rooted in the status quo, that re-elected him in 2014 — even in the face of growing public disquiet over corruption in FIFA — remains unchanged. Who they will pick to replace a president who for many was also a patron remains a wide-open question. But eight soccer personalities had put themselves in contention when nominations closed on Oct. 26, seven of which made FIFA's final cut on Wednesday.