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Drama of FIDE elections 2018

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In modern chess, FIDE elections always mean fireworks. You should not be surprised – chess nowadays is an influential sport, involving people around the world in the hundred millions, moving in a large financial world on its own and mixing in sectors such as tourism, politics, international art, etc.

Chess matters. For its well being the sport needs a stable structure – FIDE. The hopes of all players around the world are that this organization will control in a fair and clever way global chess, leading it to progress and prosperity. All this power and hopes involved are a perfect mixture for a large explosion called elections. If you have not realized it, it is happening at this very moment.

A few days ago we published an article on the elections at the Russian Chess Federation. At first sight it is a normal, dry, factual article. It was intended to be such. However, the text opened a pandora’s box and our email got bombarded with FIDE elections information in a matter of hours. Here is the situation in the chess world and the FIDE elections 2018 at this very moment, based on the information we have received so far.

FIDE Elections 2018

At this stage, less than an year away from the elections, we are used to having two clear candidates and a struggle for votes. Now we have two camps again, but in a very different configuration. One camp supporting a candidacy by the incumbent president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and one camp opposing it without having a clear candidate at the moment.

The process has been going for a while. Ever since Ilyumzhinov got on the US sanctions list he has been losing support. At first he lost the power to run FIDE effectively, due to his inability to perform his duties under sanctions, and resigned his administrative, political and legal powers. Then there was the strange case of the resignation. It was followed a few months later by an Executive Board that with 37 votes in favor, 20 against and two abstentions recommended Ilyumzhinov not to run for president at the next elections.

Yet, Ilyumzhinov wants to be a candidate again and is rallying possible supporters. For now the story does not look good as his main ally seems to be Danailov, a man responsible for huge financial scandals involving money siphoning to offshore companies from one national federation and the European Chess Union. Ilyumzhinov also has some support from Africa and Lewis Ncube, but the extent of this support is unclear.

On the other side is a camp supported by what seems a united Europe and also united Americas – South and North. But they do not have a clear candidate yet, and the main driving force behind this union is the goal not to have someone under US sanctions at the top of FIDE.

In this configuration comes a very important Russian Chess Federation election, where endorsements have always been regarded as vote movers.

Jorge Vega speaks openly

Jorge Vega is the main power behind chess in South and North America. The publications on Chessdom provoked him to speak out on the current situation. Vega speaks on the Russian Chess Federation elections, the stance of South America and the one of Africa. Here we publish his text, without edits.

Rumbo a FIDE 2018, Jorge Vega

The articles Elections in the Russian Chess Federationand From Antalya to Moscow an unexpected handshake published by Chessdom, announced the review of the processes that will culminate with the election of the President of FIDE in October for the period 2018-22. Objectively and impartially, a lot has been commented relating to both publications.

On the first publication, not being an expert in that environment, I can say little, only that I see a frontal struggle between several candidates headed by Andrei Filatov and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. However, this confrontation has a significant influence on the subsequent election of the FIDE Presidency, given that a defeat of Ilyumzhinov in Russia would be a near-fatal blow to his aspirations at FIDE as he needs to be able to report that he has the support of his national federation.

The second article describes in part what happened in the two meetings of the Presidential Board held in Athens at the beginning of 2017 as well as what happened at the FIDE Executive Board meeting in Antalya. Here I could give an opinion, but given that the statement by Mr Makropoulos is clear and explanatory, I shall only add that I agree with what he has said about the situation created in FIDE through the intention of Mr Ilyumzhinov to seek re-election as President of FIDE.

The atmosphere around the election has become intensified because in this contest Ilyumzhinov appears as the only candidate and a possible opponent has not yet appeared despite many rumours. Personally I am sure there will be opposition to Ilyumzhinov’s candidacy given that the forces that oppose him are substantial and powerful.

In this environment I think it is necessary to explain the coincidences and differences between the Continental Assemblies of America and Africa given that America is the bunker of the opposition to Ilyumzhinov and Africa is considered his strong point.

First of all I can assure you it is no coincidence, that America´s GA followed a normal channel, similar to previous meetings, without it becoming a campaign meeting. No political group financed the attendance of the delegates or promised technical or financial support to the member federations. Everything that was discussed was done spontaneously and democratically and delegates freely expressed themselves. Their interventions are included in the minutes of the meeting that were sent to all member federations and published on the CCA website. The names of the federations present and the assignments of the statutory valid proxies were also published (28 in total) and the names of the 6 absent federations were also recorded.

A much discussed issue was the situation in FIDE (when the Assembly was held the FIDE EB meeting in Antalya had not yet been held). A motion was presented by the representatives of Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina, referring to the fact that any candidate for the FIDE Presidency who was under international sanctions could not be supported; in this instance Mr. Ilyumzhinov, without mentioning his name, although not excluding any other person who might be in the same situation, given the damage that their election would cause FIDE. It was mentioned that the campaign slogan of the winning team used in the 2014 elections should be followed, “FIDE First”, which put the welfare of the organization before any personal interest.

The discussion of the delegates was intense, highlighting questions of principle, not economic convenience. A vote was taken and the result was 26-2 in favour of not supporting anyone who was subject to sanctions. (Subsequently, 4 federations that were absent adhered to the motion, yielding a balance of 30-2). A clear text was published that left no doubt about the matter.

Regarding the assembly of Africa there is no detailed information available except what is published on the electronic page of Mr. Ilyumzhinov or what arrives through social networks, which may or may not be accurate. It is to be expected that the minutes will be published in due course. This will clarify everything.

The first difference to America is that a large part of the attendees in Africa were allegedly financed to guarantee their presence, which, if true, turns the Assembly into a campaign meeting, Secondly, although it had the necessary quorum (30 of 47 member federations), the absence of 17 does not guarantee the affirmation that the Continent “unanimously supports” a motion.

Apparently a clear and precise statement was prepared that stated that the federations present supported the re-election of Mr. Ilyumzhinov as President of FIDE for the period 2018-22. When a group of federations requested the need for more time to decide, the text was changed to a more ambiguous one that does not speak of direct support in the next election but mentions the support “to continue serving as leader of FIDE”. This can be understood in different ways, either as Honorary President, or as Ambassador in Charge of International Contacts or as President of FIDE, etc. This change was made to include the word “unanimously”, necessary to strengthen the resolution.

The final text can be read on the campaign page of Mr. Ilyumzhinov.

In America, since the meeting of the Presidential Board at Athens, December 2015 where Mr. Iljumzjinov passed all administrative, political and legal powers to the Deputy President, Mr. Makropoulos to avoid FIDE the consequences of the sanctions imposed on him, I have informed and updated the member federations of CCA on the existing situation. This was in order that they have the necessary elements to make the decision they consider appropriate. Due to lack of information, I cannot judge if in Africa its Continental President has acted similarly. Only the federations of Africa can analyze if they were correctly and fully informed or if they only had technical and financial elements when they attended the Assembly held in Tunis.

I think I have explained everything regarding our respective assemblies. I am sure that statements will follow that will allow us to reach a conclusion about events, given that some participants at the Africa GA have explicitly stated that they do not know the meaning of the note issued as the level of true support is unclear.

As a final question I return to the beginning of these lines, I believe that the importance of the resolution of Africa does not have the weight that appears in terms of the outcome of the election of FIDE. Furthermore, with it not being a matter of principle, everything can change when another candidate for the FIDE Presidency appears. However, it is of vital importance to Mr. Ilyumzhinov that he needs to present something before the elections of the Russian Chess Federation that will allow him to reduce Filatov’s advantage, not with the idea of winning the same but to try and get the support of the RCF for his re-election in FIDE, a question that seems to be difficult.

We’ll see what happens on February 3rd and October 3rd!

Jorge Vega, January 24, 2018

The situation in Africa

The America General assembly position presented by Jorge Vega is clear. There is an overwhelming majority against the support of Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as far he is under sanctions, “The Confederation of Chess of America and its affiliated national federations will not support in any way, especially political or institutional, those persons who intend to join the International Chess Federation (FIDE) or Confederation of American Chess (CCA) through their electives positions, and that: Are subject to judicial sanction or interdiction, initiated by countries through their administrative or judicial bodies or international organizations, which imply a discredit or risk of discredit to CCA or FIDE.”, as stated in FIDE’s report. However, Africa seems to be a question mark.

Ilyumzhinov published on his official website, “The participants of the African Chess Confederation (ACC) unanimously supported the candidacy of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov for the forthcoming FIDE presidential elections in August 2018. The ACC includes the leaders of the national chess federations of 47 countries of the Dark Continent. According to NG experts, familiar with the chess issues, ACC members provide more than 50% of the votes needed for the election of FIDE president. As follows from the statement of the confederation, which meeting was held on 21 January in Tunisia, Sousse (a copy is available to NG), its participants declared “official support for the will of the esteemed Mr Ilyumzhinov to continue serving as leader of FIDE”.”(read the full text here). According to Vega, 30 federations were there, with 17 not present and possibly against.

However, what came under fire in the last hours is the number 30 and the word “unanimously”, as we received a protest from the Botswana Chess Federation representative Mothokomedi Thabano. He sent us the following text on Facebook, reading, “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. As BCF rep at the just ended ACC congress, I wish to put it on record that Botswana has not endorsed Kirsan for presidency of FIDE, neither was there a platform of such. The question concerning Kirsan was whether we object his candidacy, which as BCF rep I remained silent on, since we had not discussed the issue at committee level. [...] Kirsan himself has not approached us to ask for our vote.”

And Asia?

While Europe and the Americas are against Ilyumzhinov, and Africa has expressed some support for Ilyumzhinov, Asia is projecting to be the most unclear continent in the FIDE presidential race. Continental meeting of Asia took place December 21-22, 2017, in Al-Ain, U.A.E. Ilyumzhinov traveled to Al Ain, but he didn’t manage to have any statement of support from the meeting.

Developing story

This is a developing story on the FIDE Elections 2018 and Chessdom will continue to update you on a daily basis with impartial reports and facts as we receive them. If you have information, do not hesitate to send it to us.