Eurovision voting shake up

Alex Mitchell
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SVT, the host channel for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, announced a huge change in the contest’s voting process. As a Eurofan and an electionista, I am über excited. Eurovision’s voting has been a topic of much debate in Europe over the years. It was the voting which led the late Sir Terry Wogan to resign from his long run as commentator on the show before the 2009 contest after ‘bloc voting’ secured Russia’s win the year before.

We have seen many initiatives used recently to beef up the ‘douze points’ voting adopted in 1975 and to break down the bloc voting, in turn allowing for greater suspense in finding the winner. We have seen a revamp of the way songs are selected for the final, with the introduction of one semi-final to replace the selection system based on a five-year average of a country’s scores (implemented in 1997).

In 2004, a semi-final was introduced, which saw countries compete to join the previous year’s top 10 countries (excluding ‘the big 5’) in the final. More and more countries were entering the contest and in 2008 another selection revamp was introduced. Gone were the top 10 guaranteed places. Instead, two semi-finals over two nights would take place with all but the big five countries and the host nation taking part.

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Only viewers from the countries participating on their delegated night could vote, with the big five and host split between the two, effectively splitting the electorate down the middle. The semi-final draws were redesigned to break up the bloc voting. Voting blocs were split in half and would compete in different semi-finals.

The running order of the country’s votes has also been tinkered with by the producers of the contest to try and keep the public guessing. Last year, Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling came up with the model which was designed to hold on to as much suspense as possible.

41 years on, the voting system faces another shake-up. Currently, each country’s votes are a 50/50 mix of the votes from the national juries and the public televote. These votes are then combined. This can often lead to the jury having too much power.

In 2014, the British public placed Poland’s Donatan and Cleo with their song ‘We Are Slavic’ top of the pack, but because the UK jury gave the same act a nul points score, the song received no points. This year the votes of the national juries votes and the public will be kept separate. The Jury votes will be awarded as normal.

Meanwhile, the televotes will be counted, although these results won’t be announced. All these points will then be combined and will be read out in reverse order. So If Britain receives 12 points from three countries and 5 points from 10, then they will be awarded 86 points, which is then added to the total score given by the juries.

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SVT know this works, as it is a similar system to the one they use in the final of their national selection, Melodifestivalen. Here two lots of 473 points are up for grabs, one set awarded by an international jury and the other awarded based on the percentage of the televote the individual act receives.

This has the potential for the dreaded null points to be eliminated (unless, of course, a song is not liked by either the jury or the national vote), and there is the potential to weaken political voting. It is a voting system Sir Terry would be proud of.

All that remains is to work out how on earth this will work with the Eurovision drinking game!

About Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. I observe - I analyse - I debate

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