MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian regional leader who says he was once abducted by aliens was re-elected on Wednesday as president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) in a vote that opponents said was rigged.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the impoverished Buddhist region of Kalmykia, beat former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov with 95 of 167 votes cast, an official at the Athens headquarters of the FIDE federation told Reuters.
Controversy flared after the Russian Chess Federation (RCF) nominated Karpov for the FIDE post in April, only to annul the nomination a month later, saying he was not an appropriate candidate, without further explanation.
Senior Kremlin official and economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich then nominated Ilyumzhinov.
Karpov was later supported and nominated by allies of fellow grandmaster and one-time rival Garry Kasparov, who is now an outspoken critic of the Russian leadership.
For months, chess watchers have been bewildered at the Kremlin’s evident intervention in the world of chess.
“Considering the rampant abuses that took place there, especially with the abhorrently corrupt proxy system, it is difficult, if not impossible, to consider this a legitimate election,” Karpov’s election site karpov2010.org said in a statement after the results.
Karpov protested against his ouster by the RCF, after which Dvorkovich sent armed guards to its premises and seized documents on the grounds that the RCF had violated tax laws.
In a public letter, Karpov had accused Dvorkovich of a “hostile takeover” of the RCF. Dvorkovich responded that Karpov was behaving “unethically.”
FIDE would not comment on the allegations surrounding the vote held in Khanty-Mansiysk, in western Siberia, by delegates from over 100 countries that belong to the federation.
Ilyumzhinov, who will step down as Kalmykia’s leader next month, has told media he believes aliens brought chess to earth. He also told Russian TV earlier this year that aliens took him for a spin in their spaceship in 1997.
Kasparov said a victory for Ilyumzhinov means “chess itself loses out.” “The delegates are intimidated and under pressure,” Kasparov told Reuters before the results were announced.
Kasparov has accused Ilyumzhinov of running FIDE for the past near 15 years as a personal fiefdom and allowing corruption. Ilyumzhinov has denied any wrongdoing.
No one at the Kremlin was immediately available to comment.
Additional reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by Mark Heinrich