Update: FIDE published this on its web site to clarify statements made by Ank Stevens, a lawyer for Kasparov's team.
The FIDE Presidential Election, to take place in the middle of the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Norway, will make 181 delegates very important people in the chess world. Every federation gets exactly one vote at the 85th FIDE Congress, but who exactly gets to represent each federation is not as simple as it seems.
The battle to select or recognize certain delegates represents a back-channel method for each candidate to improve his chances of election. President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, leader of FIDE since 1995, is running for reelection, while challenger GM Garry Kasparov is trying to unseat the incumbent.
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (left) at a campaign stop in El Salvador (photo courtesy Ilyumzhinov campaign site)
Kasparov is citing irregularities and issues with FIDE's recently published official list of delegates (PDF), and at least one member of the FIDE Electoral Commission (ELE) agrees with him.
"Team Kasparov's" position on FIDE's actions has been made very clear:
"They are simply stealing votes, blatantly and openly, with little or even contradictory statements," Kasparov told Chess.com. "They are voting along identical lines in every case."
"Six federations have now been removed for supporting Kasparov publicly," Kasparov Senior Advisor Mig Greengard told Chess.com.
FIDE Executive Director and Treasurer Nigel Freeman declined to comment on these cases specifically. "These matters are for the Electoral Commission to decide based on all the evidence, not for others to comment, particularly before the commission has met," he told Chess.com.
Garry Kasparov at a campaign stop in Ivory Coast (photo courtesy Kasparov campaign site)
Here's a detailed explanation of what Kasparov's team feels are unjustified rulings:
As previously reported, Afghanistan and Gabon both seemingly have two governing bodies, and FIDE was tasked with deciding which was more official and therefore had the right to nominate that federation's delegate. Greengard now claims Fiji, South Africa, and Papua New Guinea are also being subjected to a change of delegates, while Netherlands Antilles is invalid as a federation.
When an issue arises, the part of FIDE that governs the proceedings is the Electoral Commission. According to the FIDE Handbook, this commission is charged with verifying the proper delegates "at FIDE's quadrennial Presidential elections in accordance with FIDE regulations" (3.5).
This five-member commission has the final say, and rulings cannot be challenged until after the General Assembly concludes (3.4). In short, the ELE's judgements are final until after the election takes place.
Chess.com attempted to contact all five members of the ELE to get clarification on some recent rulings. Three of the five members replied, but only one offered insight into the proceedings of the board.
Andrei Korobeinik of Estonia, the European constituent of the board (every continent gets one member), responded: "This time there were quite a few cases with very different reasoning, including complaints from both presidential candidates. All of the complaints filed on behalf of Mr. Ilyumzhinov were satisfied, while all of the complaints from Mr. Kasparov were denied."
Electoral Commission member Andrei Korobeinik (photo: Wikipedia)
Bharat Singh of India, also on the ELE, said "I feel I should not comment any thing on the deliberation in meeting (sic)."
Fellow commission member Margaret Murphy of U.S. Virgin Islands said "I consider that the members of the electoral commission have a duty of reserve which prevents me to answer your questions."
Neither GM Darcy Lima of Brazil nor Mwinde Muchimba of Zambia answered Chess.com's interview request.
Korobeinik explained in more detail the specifics of the Afghanistan ruling that went before the commission:
"There was a case with Afghanistan delegate where both parties won their own elections. One of them was supported by National Olympic Committee and Anti Corruption Committee (Mahmod Hanif -- M.K.) while the other was backed up by Department of Sports and Physical Culture (Asefi Zaheeruddeen, supported by a new president -- M.K.) which is not a ministry but still a state department of some kind. Support from National Olympic Committee was dismissed by the commission."
Indeed, the list of delegates released earlier this week on FIDE's web site lists Zaheeruddeen as the rightful delegate (PDF).
"I was clearly supporting the candidate backed up by Olympic Committee due to several reasons. For me, his case was quite strong. Afghanistan Chess Federation conducted elections that were filmed on video, had correct minutes of those elections and representatives by both Olympic Committee and Anti Corruption Committee were presented at the meeting. The other party’s case was quite fuzzy. Support letter 'by government organization' was sent from Gmail address and had National Olympic Committee stamp (while National Olympic Committee confirmed that this person had nothing to do with them). Afghanistan had parliament elections recently and haven't got new government yet. Thus any support from the government at this point can be quite a shaky ground for forming an opinion.
"However, support from National Olympic Committee was depreciated by quite a few commission members. Mr. Mwinde Muchimba (who represents African continent in the commission) repeated several times that 'in those countries' National Olympic Committee has no say, all the money is distributed by the government thus government opinion is the most important one. I voted for the candidate backed up by National Olympic Committee and Anti Corruption Committee. However, the other four members of commission voted for the other candidate."
According to Korobeinik, the Gabon ruling was even less expected. According to the evidence he reviewed, the organization Association Pour Le Developement des Echecs Au Gabon (ADEG) supplied better minutes of their meetings and therefore had more of an imprimatur to be the official governing body of chess in Gabon.
Korobeinik said that the very same day Gabon sent evidence of their election, the FIDE web site changed to reflect that Association Gabonaise des Echecs (AGE) is the official chess organization in Gabon. In addition, Presidential incumbent Gabin Nicaise Yala, who had just lost an election to Barthelemy Bongo, was listed once again as President, this time of AGE. ADEG was nowhere to be found.
The timing of this change on the web site is still at issue, with previous reports suggesting it happened just after Kasparov visited Gabon in May.
"Support from the federation (ADEG) wasn't clear until [Kasparov] went," Greengard said. He added that FIDE did not take issue with Gabon's delegate until "once they realized he was meeting the president (Bongo), and signed an agreement for chess in the schools."
Korobeinik said that the ELE was not notified why this change had taken place on the FIDE web site. According to him, no evidence was offered. "For me it looked like the Gabon Chess Federation was hijacked by the candidate who had lost his elections."
According to Korobeinik, the ELE has also contradicted itself on a few rulings. In the case of Papua New Guinea, a new delegate was denied by the ELE because the minutes of the meeting were not signed.
"That was enough for installing the previous delegate," he said. However, in the case of Gabon, a meeting in which Yala claimed to win the presidency did not have the minutes signed. In addition, at least one member that was listed on the minutes to Yala's meeting signed a declaration affirming that he was not there.
In another apparent contradiction, the decision of Afghanistan's delegate hinged partly on the support by that country's National Olympic Committee. However, in the case of Gabon, its National Olympic Committee's support, and actual government's support, of Bongo were both dismissed, according to Korobeinik.
For both Afghanistan and Gabon, the vote was 4-1, with Korobeinik as the lone dissention each time. "For me it seemed my colleagues used some double standards in their decision making process," Korobeinik said.
In the cases of Fiji and South Africa, more issues arose surrounding presidents stepping down but still being recognized by FIDE.
Fiji's president stepped down as of June 26, 2014, which can be seen clearly on the Fiji Chess Federation web site. Despite this, Dr. Virgilio De Asa is still listed as the delegate on FIDE's site (PDF). Fiji's web site lists its support for Kasparov; it remains to be seen if Fiji's vote will go toward the challenger.
As you can see from FIDE's site, it is specifically informing countries to change the delegate from federations like Afghanistan, Fiji, and Gabon.
In what could be another twist, some of these federations are the same ones caught up in the recent denial of participation by the Olympiad hosts. Several prominent Ilyumzhinov supporters have suggested that Kasparov has played a part in this, so as to inhibit their attendance and voting. For his part, Kasparov has denied any connection to his campaign and the decision made by the organizers.
Ank Santens, a lawyer for Kasparov's campaign, said she could at least understand the ruling in the case of South Africa. As for Netherlands Antilles, which ceased to exist as of 2010, no new national body stepped in to take the place of Nederlands-Antilliaanse Schaakbond. In her view, the Curacao Chess Federation "is not the legacy chess federation of the Netherland Antilles."
"No one who looks at the evidence could possibly use the word 'fair' to describe the 6/6 result...and with the same 4-1 vote in each case," Kasparov said. "The ELE must be absolutely independent, immune to political pressure."
He said that he wished to see one of the big four audit firms supervise and run the ELE in the future.
"Six stolen votes doesn't sound like a lot, but in a very tight election with big blocs on either side and a minority up for grabs, it's not insignificant," Kasparov said.
Greengard claims that several federations have held out their public support for Kasparov to avoid potential issues like this.
"We had vague hopes that it would be handled correctly due to the threat of Lausanne," Greengard adds, referencing the home of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In 2010, several federations took Karpov's case there for adjudication. The court denied the claims, so Greengard said that Kasparov's team is documenting everything in case this election also ends up there.
None of the three ELE members who replied to Chess.com -- Murphy, Singh or Korobeinik -- said they publicly support either candidate.
Korobeinik hoped that neutrality was still in place:
"As a president of Estonian Chess Federation I represent Europe in FIDE Electoral Commission. Estonian Federation hasn’t signed any declaration supporting Mr. Ilumzhinov (sic) or Mr. Kasparov in their campaigns and I really hoped the other commission members are also neutral in their decisions -- without using double standards and without being biased towards one of the candidates despite their personal preferences. It’s up to Electoral Commission to define its role -- whether we are helping to make FIDE presidential elections to be more transparent and fair and thus raising chess profile worldwide...Or not."