Political, neighbourly or Diaspora Voting?

by Benny Royston 218 views

The Eurovision Song Contest was created to promote peace between the nations of Europe. It is supposed to be above politics and all about music, sharing culture, learning about other nations and the excitement of friendly competition. Why is it then that not a year goes by when the words, political voting or neighbourly voting are heard, or more recently, diaspora voting? esctoday.com is asking for your views on the political, neighbour or diaspora voting at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Many people now see the competition as several groups of neighbouring countries pooled together to vote for one another. In the 1980s, fingers were pointed at the Scandinavians, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and since 1986, Iceland. At the time, this was the 'largest' block in the competition, however in the 1980s, only Sweden (1984) and Norway (1985) won the contest. During the same decade, Finland twice finished last (1980, 1982), the second time with 'nul points'. Norway finished last in 1981and Iceland did the same in 1989.

Of course, it would be wrong to discuss neighbourly voting without mentioning the topic that brings United Kingdom commentator, Terry Wogan to his knees every year. The only thing as predictable as hearing Te Deum at the beginning of a Eurovision Song Contest broadcast, is hearing the Greek result 'Cyprus 12 points' and a reciprocating 'Greece 12 points' from Cyprus.

Then the division of Yugoslavia and Balkan wars happened, and suddenly Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, FYR Macedonia, Serbia Montenegro (which are now independent countries and highly likely to compete individually in 2007) seem to be the closest of allies at the Eurovision Song Contest. Many see Greece and Albania as part of the new Balkan Block. The shared votes have yet to produce a winner – except for an argument that the blockincludes close neighbourGreece, in which case, the votes helped Helena Paparizou to victory in 2005.

The 2000sbrought a flood from the East to the Eurovision Song Contest. The arrival of the Baltic trio of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, each tending to vote closely for one another. Russia joined the Eurovision Song Contest, inviting votes from the Baltic states, and then enjoying the arrival of Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and last year, Armenia. They may also be joined in 2007 by Georgia and Azerbaijan. Estonia and Latvia (2001 and 2002) have both won the competition, and were joined by Ukraine in 2005, in only their second participation at the competition. This group has so far proved to be the most successful of the so-called neighbourly blocks.

Simply looking at the neighbourly or political voting does not tell the full story. In the age of the European Union, borders are open and many communities have spread around the continent. Armenia won votes from only 17 countries in their debut year, yet they finished higher than countries such as Greece and Ireland who received votes from 22 and 23 countries respectively. Armenia received the maximum 12 points from neighbours Russia, but also scored high marks from Belgium (12), France, Netherlands, Greece (10), Israel and Spain (8), where there are exceptionally large Armenian populations.

This has led to the growth in talk of 'diaspora voting', it refers to the tendancy for large immigrant populations throughout Europe voting for their homeland. Turkey and Armenia are prime examples of countries that benefit from Diaspora voting. Germany awarded Turkey 44 out of a maximum 48 points in the last four years, with 12 points in 2004 and 2006, and 10 points in 2003 and 2005. Germany has an exceptionally large Turkish population which makes the likelihood of Germany awarding top marks to their homeland as likely as a top-mark exchange between Greece and Cyprus. Belgium and the Netherlands have also been awarding high marks to Turkey in recent years, as they see asteady rise in their Turkish immigrant population.

Israel, who finished in 4th place in 2005, scored only 4 points in 2006, all of which came from France, where there is a Jewish population of approximately 1million, far and away the largest jewish population in Europe after Israel. Without this population, would Israel have received the dreaded 'nul points' for the first time in 2006?

Do you think that neighbourly, political or diaspora voting has been increasing in recent years?
What can be done to reduce the effect of this voting in order to increase the fairness of the competition?

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