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Old June 2nd 06, 05:22 PM posted to soc.culture.russian,rec.games.chess.politics,rec.games.chess.misc,alt.chess,soc.culture.italian
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Default The Moscow Times: On the FIDE Election today

Friday, June 2, 2006. Issue 3424. Page 1.

Aa Aa Aa

A Game of Chess -- and Politics
By Carl Schreck
Staff Writer


Sergei Porter / Vedomosti

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is facing one of the toughest political battles of
his life.

In his republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has never allowed for
much in the way of democratic opposition.

But on Friday the mercurial president could face his toughest
political battle yet in an ostensibly free and fair election that
could see him toppled from his throne -- not in the Russian republic
but as head of the chess world.

Delegates from more than 150 national chess federations will cast
their ballots Friday in Turin, Italy, to elect the president of the
International Chess Federation, or FIDE, in the most serious challenge
to Ilyumzhinov's presidency of that organization since he assumed the
post 11 years ago.

Under his tenure, Ilyumzhinov has failed to secure stable corporate
sponsorship for FIDE. Now, Dutch-born businessman and chess benefactor
Bessel Kok is trying to defeat the incumbent, whom President Vladimir
Putin re-appointed as president of Kalmykia in October.

Ilyumzhinov, who was first elected president the republic in 1993, has
poured tens of millions of dollars into chess since becoming FIDE
president in 1995. He has maintained the money was his own, but
critics have accused him of dipping into the republic's coffers to
fund his chess obsession, including the construction of his chess
fantasy land, Chess City, a complex built in Elista, the capital of
Kalmykia, to host the 1998 Chess Olympics.


The FIDE campaign has curious parallels with recent color revolutions
in former Soviet republics, with some Russian commentators even
suggesting that Western forces are conspiring to put one of their own
at the helm.

Ilyumzhinov has faced repeated allegations of misuse of public money
and being an authoritarian leader of the Buddhist republic.

Now he is being challenged by a Western candidate preaching
transparency and economic reforms. Appropriately, Kok's team has
selected orange as the color of its campaign.

"As the whole world is aware, orange represents the color of change,"
Kok's campaign web site states. "It has been successful in the
Ukrainian campaign and more recently in Kenya."

The web site also notes that orange is the national color of the
Netherlands, Kok's homeland.

The FIDE presidential race has been riddled with accusations, petty
and serious, of conspiracy and corruption.

Sport-Express chess commentator Yury Vasilyev enigmatically accused
one of his "favorite" grandmasters of belonging to a "fifth column"
for backing Kok -- despite the unnamed chess player's local federation
supporting Ilyumzhinov.

Vasilyev has penned several articles pushing Ilyumzhinov's reelection.

In an open letter posted on the web site Chessbase.com, grandmaster
Bachar Kuoatly accused FIDE deputy president Giorgios Makropoulos of
squandering $1 million earmarked for the 1999 World Championship in
Las Vegas. The money had been given to Makropoulos by Ilyumzhinov,
Kuoatly said.

Russian newspapers, meanwhile, have hinted that Western chess
federations are plotting to make sure the Russian loses.

In a Komsomolskaya Pravda article Tuesday, Alexei Gulf said the "NATO
of chess" -- the United States, Western Europe and Turkey -- had
Russia in its crosshairs. "Remember," Gulf wrote, "how our figure
skater Irina Slutskaya was robbed [of a gold medal] at the Winter
Olympics in the same city -- Turin."

As of Thursday evening, Ilyumzhinov said he had the support of 86
national federations while Kok said he had pledges from 41
federations, according to their campaign web sites.

International master David Levy, a former FIDE delegate from Scotland,
said Thursday that Ilyumzhinov appeared to be heading for victory.

"It is well known that in FIDE elections many promises are broken, so
no one can be really certain," Levy said. "But the people who are most
genuinely in the know, those on the two election teams, paint a
picture of a Kirsan victory. His guys are all smiles, while those I
have seen today from the Bessel camp have an air of doom about them."

Australian grandmaster Ian Rogers said each candidate had 55 to 60
votes "in the bag," but that Latin American federations could tip the
scale in Ilyumzhinov's favor.

The outcome of Friday's election is unlikely to affect Ilyumzhinov's
political future, political analysts Nikolai Petrov and Alexei
Makarkin said.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/storie...06/02/003.html
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