After years of the concept being stoked by commentator Terry Wogan, pretty much everyone in the UK believes that the contest has been hijacked by ‘bloc voting’, with all the East European states voting for their neighbours, effectively ensuring that the UK entry will always place near the bottom of the finals.
There’s an element of truth in there, although it does ignore that for the last several years few of the UK’s Eurovision entries have been worth voting for in the first place. A revised voting system, in which each country’s final votes were tallied from a mixture of phone voting and a jury made up of music industry professionals, helped the UK this year, even if the song itself wasn’t great.
But while we mock bloc voting, for some people voting for your neighbouring country’s songs actually has negative consequences:
Rovshan Nasirli, a young Eurovision fan living in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, says he was summoned this week to the country’s National Security Ministry – to explain why he had voted for Armenia during this year’s competition in May.
“They wanted an explanation for why I voted for Armenia. They said it was a matter of national security,” Nasirli said. “They were trying to put psychological pressure on me, saying things like, ‘You have no sense of ethnic pride. How come you voted for Armenia?’ They made me write out an explanation, and then they let me go.”
Hopefully that explanation will have included, “I couldn’t vote for Azerbaijan anyway, due to Eurovision rules – and what was I going to do, vote for that awful Lloyd Webber/Diane Warren number?”
The apparent sensitivity seems to be rooted in long-standing disputes over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Still, perhaps this can spur on the UK to keep improving its entries, so that people in high tension countries can choose us as a safer option?
Found via The Daily Dish