Baghdad: Iraq failed to elect a new president of its soccer federation for the second time in two days on Sunday, raising the prospect of new sanctions by the world soccer body FIFA.
Political bickering has paralysed the federation, split by sectarian divisions seven years after the U.S.-led invasion and three years after a multi-ethnic Iraqi squad won the Asia Cup.
FIFA requires governments to refrain from meddling in national soccer federations and has suspended Iraq twice, lifting the latest ban in March on condition the federation agreed on a road map for new elections.
The government of Shi`ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been trying to remove top officials from sport bodies suspected of ties to the Sunni-led former government of Saddam Hussein.
Hussain Saeed, president of the Iraqi Football Association who once was a senior official on the Olympic Committee controlled by Saddam`s son Uday, is facing a challenge from Falah Hassan, backed by the Shi`ite-led government. Both are former players in the Iraqi national team.
The federation was due to elect a new president on Sunday but the vote was called off a second time after only 25 delegates showed up in Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, where FIFA had decided the vote should take place for security reasons.
A vote scheduled for Saturday was also abandoned for lack of a quorum.
Most delegates stayed in Baghdad where the government had wanted to hold the election to demonstrate improved security since 2006-2007 when sectarian warfare was at its height.
"We failed to conduct the vote due to a lack of quorum and ask FIFA to grant a postponement until conditions improve," Saeed told reporters.
He called on FIFA to prevent outside interference after accusing the government of trying to put pressure on some delegates not to travel to Arbil.
The bickering has affected Iraq`s performance after hiring a succession of coaches and failing to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa this year. Last year, FIFA allowed Iraq to host its first friendlies since 2003. Iraq defeated Palestine in two matches played in Arbil and Baghdad.