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It Continues: FIDE Won't Budge, Ilyumzhinov Won't Resign

It Continues: FIDE Won't Budge, Ilyumzhinov Won't Resign

Even though Kirsan Ilyumzhinov himself denies that he is stepping down as FIDE president, FIDE officials continue to claim that he has announced his resignation. At a press conference today in Moscow, Ilyumzhinov emphasised that he'll continue to work as FIDE president until 2018.

Photo Ilyumzhinov: David Llada.

(This is a follow-up on yesterday's story where we reported that the FIDE website claims that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced his resignation as FIDE president.)

Ilyumzhinov's written denial ("the information about my alleged resignation published on the FIDE website is untrue") was posted today on the FIDE website, together with a reply from the executive director of FIDE, Nigel Freeman.

He writes:

Dear Kirsan,

During the Presidential Board Meeting in Athens, you several times threatened to resign at and at the end of the meeting, three times you repeated: "I resign" before leaving the room.

At the request of board members, an Extraordinary Presidential Board meeting has been called on 10th April to discuss this issue.

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Ilyumzhinov has already replied to this reply. In a more lengthy letter, he mentions that there was a "very emotional discussion" after the presidential board meeting had finished. He also clarifies his statement (in line with what his assistant Berik Balgabaev had told Chess.com yesterday).

According to Ilyumzhinov, he said in Athens: "I am ready to leave the position of FIDE president if this will be necessary for FIDE."

Ilyumzhinov also points out that the issue should be resolved at the FIDE general assembly, "which has given me the mandate till the next elections that will be held in September 2018. Thus, I don't see any necessity in holding of an extraordinary board meeting in April."

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Ilyumzhinov also wrote a letter to all national chess federations. There he also states that he intends to work the full period of his term, and doesn't see a reason to "waste money" for an "unnecessary meeting."

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Press conference

Today Ilyumzhinov also held a press conference at the Central Chess Club in Moscow. He was joined by what appears to be the only FIDE official who still publicly supports him: the president of the Russian Chess Federation and FIDE vice president Andrey Filatov.

"Now my opponents are trying to force me to resign, because it is their only chance," said Ilyumzhinov. "But at the recent FIDE presidential board meeting in Athens, I did not sign anything and will not sign voluntarily and will continue to work FIDE president until the elections in 2018."

Ilyumzhinov also stated that the sanctions by the American government don't affect his work as FIDE president, except that he wasn't able to attend the 2016 world championship in New York.

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Andrey Filatov and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, today in Moscow. | Photo: Russian Chess Federation.

"Some people in the presidential board want this internal riot to force Ilyumzhinov's resignation, because this is the only real way to deprive them of his presidency," said Filatov.

Ilyumzhinov: "Why spend money on the extraordinary presidential board meeting and throw tens of thousands of euros on it, while the board won't have decision power since the president didn't sign anything. Better to spend the money on children's tournaments."

Legal issues

The back-and-forth between the FIDE president and the other presidential board members suggests that a struggle for power is taking place inside FIDE. However, at the moment there are at least three reasons why Ilyumzhinov cannot be simply ousted as president of the World Chess Federation.

1) There is no signature.

As he says himself, Ilyumzhinov hasn't signed anything. He might indeed have said "I resign," perhaps even more than once, and other presidential board members seem to argue that these remarks were binding and have to be accepted. They even gave orders to announce it on the FIDE website. But can this really happen, without a signature? It seems unlikely.

2) Removal from office is hard.

Ilyumzhinov doesn't intend to leave voluntarily, and to remove a president is not easy. The FIDE statutes state:

Any elected or appointed official in FIDE can be removed from his position for cause. Cause is defined as being contrary to the spirit and text of the statutes and regulations of their office. The action must have the agreement of the Ethics Committee and requires a two third vote of the Executive Board or a majority in the General Assembly. (...)

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3) What's status of the extraordinary presidential board meeting?

Then, what is the status of the extraordinary presidential board meeting, now scheduled for April 10? Can other board members actually arrange one? According to the FIDE statutes, it's the president who calls for such a meeting. Chapter 7 of the FIDE handbook states:

The Presidential Board should meet at least once every three months. In addition the FIDE President may at any time convene the Presidential Board for consultation in person or teleconference. [Italics by Chess.com.]

Crucial in these matters might be Ilyumzhinov's decision in December 2015 to "withdraw from any legal, financial and business operations of FIDE," after the U.S. Department of the Treasury had levied sanctions against him. What exactly is his power right now? Can deputy president Georgios Makropoulos call for an extraordinary presidential board meeting? Can he make other decisions?

It's not unlikely that everything will eventually be resolved at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. Meanwhile, chess players and fans can only hope that all this will not lead to the cancellation of any chess events or other running projects, and that our sport won't be damaged any further.


Update: On March 29th, the FIDE website published the following letter by Makropoulos directed to Ilyumzhinov. Most notably, he says that the Presidential Board meeting in Athens was recorded. 

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Earlier report:

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