(ATR) The Presidential race for the Asian Football Confederation Presidency appears to be coming to a conclusion before voting begins.

Sheikh Salman, right, attending the 2018 FIFA World Cup (Getty Images)Opposition candidate Mohammed Al Romaithi from the United Arab Emirates withdrew from the race, clearing the way for incumbent Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa to remain as AFC President.

Al Romaithi ran on a platform pledging a $300 million development package for the AFC, bankrolled by him personally. He said that if he could not bring big changes to the organization within the first six months of his mandate, he’d step down after a year.

After a meeting with Sheikh Salman, Al Romaithi released a statement saying he now backed the incumbent president in the race, for supporting his development package. 

“I would like to thank Sheikh Salman for his initiative and his visit to the UAE and I would like to stress that when I decided to run for the presidency it wasn’t because I was aiming for the position itself,” Al Romaithi said in a statement. “I was happy that Sheikh Salman wants to take advantage of this program and aim to achieve it. Therefore, I will spare no effort in supporting him in order to reach this goal.”

The AFC Presidential race became a battleground over allegiances in the Gulf region, with all three candidates coming from the Middle East. Al Romaithi represented the UAE in his candidacy, while Sheikh Salman hails from Bahrain. A third candidate, AFC Vice President Saoud Al Mohannadi of Qatar, is viewed as a non-factor in the race. Qatar is currently under a diplomatic blockade from many countries in the Gulf region.

Sheikh Salman repeatedly said he possessed letters of support from 40 of the AFC’s 47 member associations.

Al Romaithi campaigned on supporting an expanded Qatar 2022 World Cup, which would provide more qualification spots for Asian countries. Last week, FIFA voted to continue feasibility studies into an expanded World Cup, after a FIFA-produced report suggested revenues in the tournament could increase by $400 million by adding 16 more teams. However, such a move would require finding a second or possibly third country to help host the event.

Written by Aaron Bauer 

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