FIDE president Ilyumzhinov under attack

10/21/2002 – "Election season is a jolly old time for the Russian press," writes Alexei Pankin in the Moscow Times. Kalmykian president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is standing for a third term and failed to reach the 50% needed to win the first round of elections, is now under heavy fire by the Moscow-based press. Since Ilyumzhinov is also the president of the world chess federation, the European FIDE delegates are watching the elections with some concern. More

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Kalmykia is a barren region in southern Russia, populated in part by descendants of Mongol nomads who settled there in the 17th century. Its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is a multi-millionaire who came to power in 1993. In 1995 he was elected FIDE President and has reputedly spent $30 million of his private wealth on the world chess federation.

Now Ilyumzhinov faces elections in Kalmykia, and last Sunday he received 47.3 percent of the votes in the republic of 317,000 residents, less than the 50% needed to win in the first round. In the second round, he will face banker Baatyr Shondzhiyev, whose 13. 6 percent of the votes was second highest among the 11 candidates.

"Election season is a jolly old time for the Russian press," writes Alexei Pankin in the Moscow Times. "In the run-up to election day the press sells its soul to the devil and starts worshipping the golden calf of official campaign advertising and zakazukha -- the lucrative business of printing anything from disguised 'advertorials' to smear articles for cash. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has never been a favorite of the Moscow-based press, which has portrayed him for the most part as the feudal ruler of a lawless kingdom. More recently, however, a wave of articles appeared depicting Ilyumzhinov as a kind, progressive leader. A few newspapers, such as Izvestia, did the honest thing and identified these articles as paid advertising."

Now the tide seems to be changing, with the Moscow Times leading the pack. In a number of highly critical articles Ilyumzhinov is depicted as a flamboyant businessman and autocratic ruler who is "destroying Kalmykia's economy, giving special favors to relatives and loyalists and suppressing dissent, sometimes with force." They give Shondzhiyev a good chance to unify the oppositional forces and oust the incumbent president in the runoff.

What this all means for the world chess federation is unclear. European delegates expect the runoff to be held on November 3 and that Ilyumzhinov would naturally have to be present in Kalmykia during the period. This would mean that the important decisions that are required will be taken in his absence.

The Russian news site www.strana.ru expects Ilyumzhinov to win the runoff election but predicts that his "power monopoly in Kalmykia will be irreparably damaged."


Kasparov, Ilyumzhinov, Kramnik signing the Prague Unity Agreement

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