Voting, Eligibility Rules Dominate PASO Discourse -- On the Scene

(ATR) PASO leaders tell Around the Rings that open, substantive discourse helped pass a new constitution in one day.

(ATR) Members of the Pan American Sports Organization tell Around the Rings the 2016 Extraordinary General Assembly showed a trend in the direction of good, transparent governance.

The assembly was the culmination of a modernization effort by the body that started after the death of Mario Vazquez Rana in early 2015. After one day of deliberations PASO completed debate on the proposed statute changes, officially passing a new constitution. The constitution will now go to the IOC and Association of National Olympic Committees for approval.

Originally the PASO Extraordinary Assembly was scheduled for May 4-5 in Brasilia.

"I am very proud of all the members of PASO that worked excellently according with the organization and timing that we fixed this," Julio Maglione, PASO interim president, told ATR. "Today, we not only heard opinions but we thought about those opinions and this way we changed many things."

Two major issues dominated the debate of changes to the body’s constitution during the first day of the assembly, how votes should be allocated during voting for executive committee members and Pan American Games host cities and who is eligible to run for the executive committee.

When debating the statute change regarding voting, the broad, and diverse coalition of countries that encompass PASO showed itself. Initially there were two possible proposed amendments, but a third amendment was proposed by Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman.

The first proposal called for all NOCs to receive one vote in all procedures. The second proposal called for all NOCs to receive one vote in procedures except in the election of a host city for the Pan American games where all countries who have previously hosted a Pan Am Games would receive two votes. The third, newly created, proposal called for the same weighted voting as the second proposal with the addition of two votes for Pan American Games hosts in executive committee votes.

A rigorous debate went on for multiple hours over the merits of each proposal, and if the third proposal was valid. A divide between the two major geographic groups of the Caribbean and Latin America dominated the debate, with the smaller island countries encouraging the second proposal, and the larger Latin American countries who have hosted the Pan Am Games voicing their approval for the newly created proposal.

PASO vice-president Keith Joseph and executive committee member Alphonso Bridgewater vocalized their discomfort with the process and the multiple proposals on weighted voting. Bridgewater likened the possibility of a newly proposed amendment to "a bit of a coup," while Joseph expressed the idealistic problems with weighted voting.

"It is an extremely difficult to understand the rationale for wanting weighted voting," Joseph said. "How do we rationalize the words today in terms of being a family, and last night we stood together in front of our flags holding those torches as equals, but a few hours later we are contemplating weighted voting?"

Camilo Moreira, NOC president from Paraguay, countered the opposition by saying the "economic sacrifice of hosting the Pan American Games," should be rewarded in the body’s voting system.

Eventually, the first two proposals went to a vote, with neither receiving a two-thirds majority needed to adopt the amendment. The first proposal was overwhelmingly defeated, while the second received 21 votes in favor, a simple majority but not enough to change the constitution.

After the first two proposals failed, PASO voted to add the third proposal as a possible amendment, which was overwhelmingly passed. Thirty-eight NOCs voted in favor of the proposal, while two NOCs voted against it with one abstention.

A similar disagreement was expected over the proposed statute change that would require all candidates for the PASO presidency, vice-presidency, and executive committee to have been serving as a president, vice-president, or secretary general of their respective NOC for at least the previous three years to be eligible to run.

After the PASO executive committee presented the statute, multiple NOCs opposed the provision requiring candidates to currently be serving an NOC leadership position to be eligible for PASO leadership. Thirty-four NOCs voted to strike the clause from the statute ending what could have been a contentious debate.

One of the speakers against the clause was IOC member from St. Lucia Richard Peterkin. Peterkin has maintained throughout the process that he was considering a run for the PASO presidency, but the proposed amendment would have precluded him from standing.

Peterkin told ATR that after passage of the revised statute he is still under consideration for the PASO presidency. Once fully committed, Peterkin would join a list of candidates that include Keith Joseph, Neven Ilic, and Jose Puello. Carlos Nuzman is considered to be a candidate, but has not officially confirmed.

Although there were disagreements about the proposed statute changes, members of the organization repeatedly stressed to ATR that the openness of debate proved fruitful and showed the body was committed to modernizing its democracy. Debate ran smoothly for the rest of the session, which allowed the delegation to wrap up earlier than expected.

The next step for PASO remains to elect a new president by the end of 2016; although Maglione told ATR that the process could bleed into the first two months of 2017. Maglione said that PASO will work to hold an election in December, but conceded that once the constitution is fully approved candidates must have 90 days to run, which could delay the process to January or February.

Written by Aaron Bauer in Brasilia

20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.