African tensions boil at 2014 Olympiad

Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

The battle for the office of FIDE President is perhaps the most important event during this two week Olympiad. While the games were to take place at 2:00pm, the continental meetings took place today at 9:00am at the Radisson Blu Hotel. One of the main topics was the election for the next FIDE President. The different regions have their own concerns, but one of the most contentious battles is for the votes of 34 African federations. This is a record for most African federations represented at the Olympiad.

The FIDE General Assembly seating is arranged by alphabetical order. At the 2012 assembly in Istanbul, notice African federations clumped together in the back of the hall. Why was this not corrected? Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

At the 2012 assembly in Istanbul, African federations may be the deciding factor. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The Chess Drum has followed the developments on the continent concerning the battle for votes. There was a volley of visits by both candidates and both sides getting written commitments from federations. In fact, at Kasparov Polar Bear Festival, there were many African nations there in support. What has resulted (in come cases) was a divided continent and even divided federations. This is apparent in the social media circles and it became more apparent in Tromso. In addition, this may cause irreparable damage regardless of who wins.

However, the brewing divsions became most apparent in the African session. Lakhdar Mazouz was chairing the meeting when after the coffee break the meeting continued and more debate occurred about the election process. There was a debate on whether certain countries would have a voting seat. A press release by the Seychelles excoriated Garry Kasparov’s campaign for attempting to include Tanzania and Burkina Faso as voting members despite the provisional status. Tanzania is participating in their first Olympiad.

Ethiopian delegate raises a question. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Ethiopian delegate raises a question at 2014 African Congress.

Afrika Msimang of South Africa makes point. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Afrika Msimang of South Africa makes point.

Afrika Msimang of South Africa makes point. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Attentive audience listens to the future course of Africa.

Ghanaian President George Arko-Dadzie on the floor. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Ghanaian President George Arko-Dadzie on the floor.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

Of course these discussions on allegiances and proper voting delegates have been boiling for several months. There is a case of several African nations debating over who had legitimate voting rights.

In the case of Gabon, FIDE has removed the elected board despite documentation showing the proceedings of the elections. Barthelemy Bongo has been seen around the Olympiad with a document explaining his case. This is supposed to be an item debated at the General Assembly. He told The Chess Drum that since he has been removed as a delegate, it restricts his ability to argue the case.

So the following election of the FIDE Continental President and the FIDE Presidential office will have a big affect on the continent. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov produced a couple of newsletters with provocative titles such as “Six Empty Promises of Garry Kasparov” and “The Dark Campaign of Garry Kasparov” both painting the former World Champion as a back-dealing, unscrupulous, demagogue.

Dabilani Buthali (FIDE President for Africa), Lewis Ncube (FIDE Vice President). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Lewis Ncube (right is chatting with former FIDE African president Dabilani Buthali at the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. Ncube, a Zambian, is standing for the post this election. He has been in the middle of many of these debates. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

However, there are many concerns on the record of the last 19 years of Ilyumzhinov’s regime. Has his regime increased visibility of chess and sustainable sponsorship? Has the 19 years created a succession plan to ensure the integrity of FIDE organs should new leadership come to fore? Has Kasparov learned from his role as an antagonist in Russian politics and now FIDE election? There seems to be more said about the faults of the opposition rather than the accomplishments of either.

Here are letters from both of the candidates concerning the election. They represent the culmination of months of debate… some spirited and some seemingly uncivil.

An Open Letter to the Ilyumzhinov Presidential Ticket, the Tromsø Organizing Committee, and the FIDE Delegates

Since the beginning of my campaign for the FIDE presidency I have strived for greater transparency and fairness in every aspect of the election process. The incumbents have many natural advantages and also many opportunities to abuse official FIDE powers for advantage.

Garry Kasparov next to the plaque commemorating his visit in Dakar, Senegal. Photo by

Today I proposed to the Ilyumzhinov ticket a short set of detailed procedures that would guarantee a fair and confidential election for FIDE President on Monday. These proposals are in full compliance with the FIDE rules. They also embody their spirit: to ensure an impartial election where the administrative resources of the incumbents may not be used to entrench them forever, and the best ticket with the best ideas wins.

Our proposals are in no way controversial and they would apply equally to both sides (they are attached so you can judge for yourself). In fact, they are widespread best practices in democratic societies and should present no discomfort to any party seeking a truly fair contest. We tried in good faith for several days to get the Ilyumzhinov ticket to speak with us about a compromise on election procedures. This afternoon, when we put detailed proposals before them, they refused even to look at them, without offering an explanation.

This has been an unfair fight from the very start. The incumbents have shamelessly used every trick they can, including simply erasing federations – like ADEG in Gabon – that want a better future for chess. And now we come to the end of a long campaign, and the incumbents still to the last minute refuse to act fairly. Ask yourself why.

Colleagues, it is the three scrutineers elected by the General Assembly who will have to decide upon the procedures for the elections and make sure that they are confidential and fair. I have proposed the same Chairman of the scrutineers – Carol Jarecki – as in Khanty-Mansiysk four years ago when Kirsan won a solid victory. Under Mrs. Jarecki’s guidance, everyone knows that we will have a fair and confidential vote. And that is what the incumbents fear most.

I call on the Ilyumzhinov ticket: for the sake of chess (and not just your own personal interests) come to the table and negotiate election procedures that will let a fair, democratic and confidential vote determine who leads our family.

I call on the Tromsø Organizing Committee: it is your duty as our host and as a democratic nation to ensure that this election is carried out fairly and impartially. Do not let a farce take place on your territory.

I call on you all, the FIDE Delegates: tell the incumbents that you want them to ensure a free and confidential election by negotiating fair conditions, and if they won’t, elect Mrs. Jarecki and two other impartial scrutineers on Monday. Even if you support the incumbents in this election, you should support these proposals as they will enhance FIDE’s standing around the world. And as you know, these elections are being widely reported. The world is watching.

Yours in chess,

Garry Kasparov

Tromsø, Norway
9 August 2014


Ilyumzhinov’s response…

Open Reply by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to the Open Letter of Garry Kasparov
10 August 2014

Dear Delegates,
Dear Chess Friends,

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at 84th FIDE Congress
Photo by

In the hours leading up to the FIDE Presidential Election, Garry Kasparov is in panic mode. Painfully aware of his imminent defeat, unable to resign and just go home, he must play to mate. All he can do at the moment is muddy the waters and try to manufacture explanations for his financial backers: he is paying a team of lawyers from one of the most expensive firms in the world (>$725/hour/lawyer) to create fog and confusion. These are the same lawyers from the same New York law firm — White and Case — who with Kasparov have cost FIDE $2m over the last four years (their cases lost, the money wasted); expensive lawyers are the principal instruments of the Kasparov Style in this endgame.

Since Friday, we have been bombarded with letters from these lawyers. The first had 11 points, the second 25 points, the third 23 points. Most of these points are revisiting questions that the very same lawyers already proposed, presented to the General Assembly – and which were accepted by FIDE – in Istanbul two years ago. Not only is it late in the day to be discussing such issues, but as a candidate I do not have the authority to change rules that were decided on and approved by the General Assembly.

White and Case’s lead lawyer, Ank Santens and the Kasparov Campaign Representative, Jøran Aulin-Jansson (who also happens to be one of the Olympiad Organizers), met with Mr. Makropoulos in the afternoon of August 9th to discuss the 11-point proposal letter. When she suddenly pulled a 25-point proposal out of her purse, a stunned Makropoulos protested that as no one had seen this document they must return to the 11-point letter.

Arriving at point 3 of the 11-point letter (a rewriting of the rules for Scrutineers) the White and Case lawyer offered a deal to pre-arrange the 3 members of the Scrutineer Committee. This is in direct violation of the democratic procedures described in our statutes and regulations. Mr Makropoulos reminded her that for many months a great number of people from many countries (including her) had worked to finalize the current regulations and he felt it would be anti-democratic to make changes now at the last minute without consulting the General Assembly. He also reminded the lawyer that she and Kasparov not only supported the regulations in Istanbul, but that she herself presented the regulations to the Assembly and urged their approval.

With nowhere to turn, Mrs Santens then insisted to stop the discussion based on the 11-point letter and to start discussing the 25-point letter. When Mr Makropoulos naturally refused to address a document that he had never seen, the lawyer abruptly got up and left the meeting, clearly following an exit strategy suggested by her client Garry Kasparov.

Later that evening, the third 23-point letter was released. In his declarations of transparency, Kasparov neglects to mention the multiple versions of his proposal letters, the meeting with Makropoulos and the erratic behavior of his lawyer and his Campaign Representative, Jøran Aulin-Jansson.

Along with the fog and confusion his lawyers are generating, his PR department (probably less well-paid) is manufacturing crises, confusion and conflict. Please beware of the distortions and omissions in his communications. Kasparov’s supposed transparency is getting more and more cloudy and dark as his sun sets.

I call on Garry Kasparov to respect, even in the last moment of this campaign, the statutes and regulations of FIDE, follow its democratic procedures and to stop provoking the up-to-now peaceful atmosphere of these elections.

I call on the Tromsø Organising Committee to discourage, rather than encourage, the cheap and disruptive last-minute political tactics of Garry Kasparov.

I call on all FIDE Delegates to to be vigilant and protect the General Assembly from a repetition of the anti-democratic and provocative behaviour that Garry Kasparov demonstrated in Khanty-Mansiysk. «Garry, respect the house!» should again be our watchword against the audacity and impulsiveness of the former world champion.

As a last note, in order to avoid giving the wrong impression, I would like to remind the lawyers that Mrs. Carol Jarecki has been among my nominations to be a Scrutineer in all of our recent elections.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

FIDE President


Which of the leadership offers a better package? This will be analyzed and the voting process will take place on Monday, August 11th, 2014 at the General Assembly at 9:00am.

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