Ilyumzhinov vs Kasparov: What's Going On With Afghanistan & Gabon?
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On August 11th, 2014 the new FIDE president will be elected at the General Assembly, held during the Olympiad in Tromsø. The two candidates, the incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his opponent Garry Kasparov, are fighting hard for the votes of the FIDE delegates and, if we may believe their respective campaign websites, it is a pretty tough fight.
During the Liechtenstein Open, a relatively small tournament held in a very small chess country, a very distinguished guest was welcomed during the eighth round. It was FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov himself who gave a speech at the start of the round, and who executed the ceremonial first move on board one. After that, he spent several hours talking to representatives of the Liechtenstein Chess Federation.
Mr Ilyumzhinov's visit was exemplary for the fight for votes that's currently taking place, between him and Kasparov. With the “one country, one vote” principle it doesn't really matter if you win in Russia, the U.S., Fiji or Liechtenstein. Small federations are worth exactly the same, when it comes down to the actual voting in Tromsø.
These days both candidates are traveling around the globe to get in touch with officials of the different national chess federations, but obviously it's impossible to meet with all 180. A strategy adopted by Kasparov is to organize meetings with several federations at the same time; earlier this year he met with several North-African federations in Morocco, in March a few Nordic countries came together in Reykjavik and earlier this month a number of small federations (including Liechtenstein!) met in Brussels.
It is almost impossible to guess what the actual voting will look like, but to follow the activities of the two candidates one should regularly visit their respective campaign websites. Mr Ilyumzhinov's is at fidefirst.com, Mr Kasparov's is at kasparov2014.com. This article summarizes recent articles posted there and elsewhere on the presidential campaigns. Because there is more than just reports of traveling and meeting officials - right now the big story is about certain data disappearing from the FIDE website.
Afghanistan: President Change
Let's start with a story that involves the Afghanistan Chess Federation - a small federation, but a vote is a vote! On June 21st an article title “Protest by Afghanistan Federation Against Unlawful Removal” was posted on Kasparov's campaign site:
“Every day brings new reports of abuses of power by FIDE executives to promote Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s reelection, further damaging relations with the federations FIDE is supposed to represent and support. The latest example is the removal of several federation presidents and delegates from the FIDE website, federations that had recently announced their support for the ticket of Garry Kasparov. FIDE Executive Director (and Treasurer, another conflict of interest) Nigel Freeman has further damaged his reputation and the credibility of FIDE by abusing FIDE powers to remove valid and long-standing federations for political reasons.”
What follows are letters by the Mahmod Hanif, who has been the President of the Afghanistan Chess Federation for years, and Mohammad Fahim Hashimy, President of the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee. Both are protesting against the fact that Mr Hanif has disappeared from the Afghanistan section of the FIDE website, without being notified, and shortly after announcing their support for Kasparov.
Mr Hanif writes: “I'm not understand what's going on here. You removed me from FIDE site as president, delegate for Afghanistan Chess Federation and you say there was some election on May 25 to put in the new person. There was no election this is made up.” Mr Hashimy writes: “I, President of Afghanistan Olympic Committee and General Secretary of Afghanistan Chess Federarion hereby confirm that no changes have been made in this federation and Mr Mahmod Hanif is the president and chess delegate of the Afghanistan Chess Federation.”
A reaction to the situation can be found on Mr Ilyumzhinov's campaign website. There, the new President of the Afghanistan Chess Federation is mentioned: Haji Mohammad Almas Zahid. (The accompanying photo, by the way, was first used in an August 2011 article which discusses in detail Mr Almas Zahid's military background.) The article continues:
“It would appear that the FIDE Presidential campaign ticket headlined by candidate Garry Kasparov has finally and completely sunk into a mire of lies trying to incite any scandal they can ahead of the elections to sway the elections results. Kasparov continues perseveres in piling up false accusations against the incumbent leadership of the International Chess Federation, relying on support of corrupt chess and sports officials, and by doing this, the 13th World Champion is causing significant damage not only to FIDE, but also to global chess as a whole.”
After that, the article refers to an article published by Chess News Agency, a brand new chess news service that suddenly popped up a few months ago, which has a distinct pro-Ilyumzhinov flavour and which does not respond to contact requests. In their article we find a letter (in PDF here) written by a certain Mr Keramuddin Karim, the General Director of the “Afghanistan General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports”.
According to Mr Keramuddin, Mr Hanif was removed from his post on accusations of corruption, fraud, and misuse of his authority.
“Right now the Prosecutor General of Afghanistan is looking into opening a criminal investigation of Mr. Hanif’s actions.”
The latest news on this story comes from Kasparov's “aide-de-camp since 1999”, Mig Greengard, who questioned the validity of the letter on Twitter:
A football assoc prez, signing with wrong stamp, on wrong letterhead, but with email of the real NOC that defended real chess president!— Mig Greengard ( @chessninja) 27 juni 2014
Mr Greengard refers to Mr Keramuddin, who happens to be the President of the Afghanistan Football Federation. Besides, whereas the letter has a letterhead of the Afghanistan General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports, and claims that Afghanistan Olympics has nothing to do with the Afghanistan Chess Federation, the email address used is that of National Olympic Committee, and the stamp is too (although not the same as used by Mr Hasimy!).
The Afghanistan National Olympic Committee (NOC) is supporting the former President, while the General Directorate speaks of a new President, Mr Haji Mohammad Almas Zahid. The question seems to be which organization in Afghanistan is authoritative in this matter, but it is Mr Almas Zahid who now features as President on the FIDE website.
Gabon: Federation Change
Whereas in Afghanistan “only” its President was removed from the FIDE website and substituted for a new one, the same happened to a complete federation as well: that of Gabon. This story cannot be found on either campaign website yet (although Kasparov's site refers to it, adding “more details forthcoming”), but was reported by the well known FIDE trainer Peter Long from Singapore, on his blog, and also picked up by The Chess Drum.
Again, if we compare the current FIDE website and the one of end May, there's a striking difference as far as the entry for Gabon is concerned.
Right now the chess federation in Gabon is called Association Gabonaise des Echecs (AGE), and it has “(2007)” behind its name, suggesting seven years of history with FIDE. However, until weeks ago it used to be Association Pour Le Developement des Echecs Au Gabon (ADEG) - which also had “(2007)”.
In an open letter to FIDE, West African Chess Association President Larbi Houari writes that ADEG had voted to support Kasparov in the presidential elections. Less than a week later its President, Barthelemy Bongo, “discovered that ADEG has been purely and simply erased from the FIDE website” and “instead, a new association appeared, the AGE, none knows about, chaired by an unsuccessful candidate to the ADEG internal election.”
According to Mr Houari all this happened back in February, but that doesn't seem right as the Internet Archive still lists ADEG at the end of May (see above). The change to AGE must have happened early June, shortly after Mr Kasparov's visit to Gabon, in the last week of May.
The Chess Drum not only published the open letter by Mr Houari, but a number of supporting documents: the statutes of the ADEG, the minutes of the ADEG election in February, the announcement of the 2014-2015 board, the recognition of ADEG by the Olympic Committee, the recognition of ADEG by the Gabonese Ministry of Sports, and the (granted) ADEG petition for membership to FIDE in 2007.
Ignatius Leong, the current General Secretary of FIDE but also on Kasparov's ticket, has published part of the communication between FIDE and the legal adviser of the Kasparov team, Ank Santens. In one email, FIDE's Executive Director (and Treasurer) Nigel Freeman replies that the matter will be forwarded to the Electoral Commission. Although Ms Santens is not happy with that answer, elsewhere she does note that the decision about who is the valid representative of the Gabon chess federation “must be made by the Electoral Commission, not the General Assembly”.
The Electoral Commission should start looking into these matters soon, as there are only 43 days to go. The official schedule stipulates that by July 7th each federation must inform the FIDE Secretariat in writing of any changes to be made to the list of delegates. A week later the final list of delegates will be announced and between July 15th and 28th federations can inform FIDE that they will assign a proxy to a delegate of another federation. The list of proxies will be announced on August 4th, and on August 9th the complete list of those entitled to vote will be announced. On August 11th the actual voting will take place.