Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Election

tl;dr Dvorkovich ran a better campaign and had a better message than everyone else.

Long version

I found the 2018 FIDE Campaign quite interesting, although I was a little surprised at the outcome.
I was much more involved this time, as I was assisting Paul Spiller in his run for Oceania Zone President, and this turned into more general assistance to Nigel Short in his campaign for FIDE President. In the lead up to the Olympiad I was spending a lot of time ringing Oceania Federations (or at least trying to), and exchanging emails with the campaigns and federations.
From the outset PNG was not going to support the Makro ticket, as a consequence of what had happened regarding the PNG delegate in 2014. ("What do you think we were going to do?" was a comment I made to more than one person). Our position was therefore Short on the first ballot, and Dvorkovich on the second ballot if necessary. And initially I thought that Makro was going to win, based on the techniques used in 2014 (lock federations in early, bully/promise delegates with offers of positions, run the election in a way that favours the incumbent).
However once I arrived in Batumi things began to change. It became clear after the first few days that the Dvorkovich campaign was in this to win. The PNG delegation was invited to meet Dvorkovich after one of the rounds, and arriving at the suggested restaurant, noticed there were probably over 100 people of other federations in attendance.  Nonetheless he spent a good 45 minutes talking to us, taking note of out suggestions. At this point I realised that the election was going to a lot closer than the FIDE ticket had hoped.
In the expo area of the Olympiad both the Makro ticket and Dvorkovich ticket had stands. (There was no stand for the Short ticket as 'insurgents don't do stands!') While the Dvorkovich stand was putting out the positive message, the Makro campaign was running on the other tickets negatives (including producing some awful propaganda cartoons attacking the other candidates). The Makro campaign had also attempted to counter the well financed Dvorkovich ticket by trying to outlaw the giving of gifts etc (which had been a standard campaign technique for Makro etc previously). This was ignored and a number of federations availed themselves of the Dvorkivich goody bag.
Meanwhile the Short campaign was chugging along, mainly working on the other delegates during Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. Short was working on the belief that he had 25 federations supporting him, which while not enough to win, was large enough to have a say in the final outcome.
Makro had also complained to the Ethics commission in the hope of getting Dvorkovich barred from the election. Once this complaint was rejected it became clear that the Makro ticket was in trouble (and they now knew it). The decison to reject the complaint was also an interesting one, as it showed a more independent mindset among some FIDE office holders. One of the issues from 2014 was every disputed case went in Kirsan's favour, which wasn't the case this time.
Closer to the actual vote all campaigns began to push a bit harder. Dvorkovich threw a couple of nice functions (one of which had mermaids), while the organisers threw a party for the Makro ticket (as an aside I and others offered to organise an event for Short at the Oasis Hotel where we were staying. This would have involved 8 bottles of wine and 250 Lari across the bar!) By this stage it was becoming very clear that Dvorkovich was close to winning on the first ballot (and he said as much to us).
I had planned to attend the whole day of the election, but an error in our team submission meant I had to play instead. I did get to attend the morning part of the election, but had to leave just before the vote began. However this was revealing enough, as the FIDE officials at the front of the room didn't appear that popular. Haiti made a complaint for the floor about how they were tricked out of voting, while the Slovenian delegate had to explain why their proxy was given to Makro the day after the board unanimously voted to support Dvorkovich (A stay in hospital was the apparent reason).
Before the vote each candidate gave a speech. Nigel Short Dvorkovich went first, followed by Nigel Short. Short used his platform to criticise the FIDE establishment. However he pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the end, by announcing his withdrawal and asking for a vote for Dvorkovich instead. Apparently this strategy was decided the day before, in the belief that staying in may have muddied the waters ('A GM move' said one person, 'A real d**k move' was another comment). By doing it this way he still had the right to give a speech, essentially making the contest 2 against 1. This seemed to catch Makro flat footed, as he was prepared for 2 rivals, not one.
After the speeches the voting took place, and in the end it resulted in quite a wide victory (by 25 votes to Dvorkovich). The Short team thought the difference was in the people who would have voted for them, although I think a couple of federations switched from Short to Dvorkovich.
With my game finished I returned to the congress to see a happy Dvorkovich team posing for photos, including with some people who had been on the opposite side an hour before!
Overall I thought it was a better election than in 2014, where personal animosity was the main driver. At least this time there were real policies put forward and decisions could be based on that. The Dvorkich campaign tapped in the desire to change things after 23 years, and this was a significant factor. Hopefully this will translate into an improved FIDE, but even if the new admin comes up short, at last the federations now know they are able to effect change at the ballot box, which I think is the most important thing.


Anonymous said...

Can you explain, why Dvorkovich, but not Karpov or Kasparov?

Anonymous said...

A simple answer - Dvorkovich is so much better.

Garvin said...

A bit of a longer explanation required. For the 2018 election, Kirsan was not a candidate. His Presidency had become so detrimental to the state of FIDE due to the US Sanctions placed on him that FIDE had their bank accounts frozen.

So this changed the picture enormously. With Kirsan gone, three different candidates put their hands up, all promising different things and a different direction. Dvorkovich's campaign was just simply better.

Makro's campaign really had a feel of, I have been with fide for so long, you do not want to change from me because I have done all this stuff and changing is too big a risk. Well as recent elections have shown, the punters have been quite willing to turf out those who run campaigns like that, rather than telling the punters what they are really going to do to move the organisation forward.

Nigel Short's biggest handicap was that he had gotten offside quite a lot of Federations from the past and it seemed like he was not a serious candidate. I do not think his campaign was helped by the IED's and molotov cocktails that were being lobbed from those running against people from his own ticket in concurrent elections. Tough to convince Federations your ticket is worth putting in charge of FIDE when it is coming under attack from 'inside'.

In 2014, Kasparov was a very polarising figure, you either love him or hate him, either as a chess player and certainly as a chess politician. More people dislike him as a chess politician. And with Kirsan about to 'buy' the votes of a lot of nations and no sanctions at that time, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Kirsan would win in 2014. Kirsan had also previously stacked a lot of the committee's with 'his people' or threatened those who were on those committees that if they did not vote for him that they would not be on those committee's anymore. See previous correspondence on this blog for prove of this.

Kirsan also made a 'bullshit' promise to fund $20 million for chess that was admitted by Makro straight after the election, but it was believed during the campaign.

In 2010, Kirsan made deals with different groups and again with weak Federations to keep power, and also with some of the business interests that he had defeated previously. So Kirsan just used the power of incumbency to keep the position, as well as threatening those who did not vote for him.