Bloc voting and sympathy points – who helps whom?

The Greeks help the Cypriots, the Turks the Bosnians and the Scandinavians stick together anyway … but is this prejudice actually true? And how about the Ukrainian favorites this year?

09.05.2022, 20:0510.05.2022, 08:39

Oliver Baroni


The awarding of points at the final of the Eurovision Song Contest is often more entertaining than the musical performances before it. Rarely are inter-European sympathies and dislikes displayed more clearly.

This is exactly what should have been avoided. Original goal of Eurovision Song Contest anno 1956 was to bring the nations of Europe, which had been damaged by the Second World War, closer together again through music. A wonderful idea: all countries send their most beautiful song into the race and then music fans all over Europe have the difficult task of choosing the most artistically valuable song from so much greatness.

In the first three decades of the Song Contest, however, certain countries were clearly preferred: for a long time, Eurovision rules stipulated Songs would have to be performed in the respective national language, which inevitably led to the dominance of the world languages ​​English and French. Great Britain and Ireland on the one hand, and France, Switzerland, Belgium and Co. on the other, had a clear starting advantage.

Ireland still holds the record for the most Eurovision winners – seven in all.Video: YouTube/ballymote

In the meantime, this regulation was rescinded (which led to the victory of ABBA’s “Waterloo” in 1974, among other things), but was subsequently reintroduced. In 1999 that finally came to an end. And since then, none of the English- or French-speaking countries of Europe have won.

Instead, another phenomenon became evident: Eurovision Bloc Voting. With the introduction of televoting at the end of the 1990s, historical alliances, cultural proximity, distribution of diasporas and similar factors were often more decisive for the awarding of points at the ESC than musical quality. So were common identify clear country blockswho gave each other points. For example:

  • The “Balkan Block”, consisting of former Yugoslav member states and Albania, but also Hungary and Bulgaria
  • The «Nordic bloc», consisting of the Scandinavian countries, as well as Finland and Iceland
  • The “ex-Soviet bloc” of the former USSR countries Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The noughties were marked by a series of victories by former Eastern Bloc countries: Estonia (2001), Latvia (2002), Ukraine (2004 – im Video), Serbia (2007), Russia (2008), Azerbaijan (2011). Video: YouTube/Eurovision Song Contest

There are also pairs of countries that generously give each other points. Among other things:

  • Greece and Cyprus
  • Greece and Armenia
  • Bulgaria and Greece
  • Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • the Netherlands and Belgium
  • Ireland and the UK

The diaspora can also play an important role. Among other things, the following regularities can be observed:

  • Greece, Turkey, Poland, Lithuania, Russia and the countries of the former Yugoslavia usually get high scores from the UK or Germany
  • Armenia receives votes from France and Belgium
  • Poland receives votes from Ireland
  • Albania receives votes from Switzerland and Italy

Many Western European countries soon complained about “a sick voting system” and considered withdrawing from the contest. On the one hand, Great Britain, France, Spain and Co. are the largest donors to the European Broadcasting Union EBU, but have no strategic partners in the voting.

About as.  😂

About as. 😂Photo: reddit

Since then, the rules for awarding points have been adapted again and again – from 2010, professional country juries were reintroduced, which account for 50 percent of the point weighting. On the one hand, this should reduce the sympathy votes, on the other hand, increase the excitement when scoring live at the ESC final. The latter worked perfectly in 2016: In the classic format, all countries presented the points to the jury one after the other. Australia had a comfortable lead. But the televoting changed everything and a voting thriller ensued in which Ukraine prevailed at the last minute.

Heard Bloc Voting now a thing of the past? After all, countries like Austria, Italy, Israel and the Netherlands have recently been among the winners. Or Portugal – for the very first time. And this with a tender jazz waltz sung in Portuguese, far removed from the usual Eurovision fire effect wind machine power ballad bombast. So the end of block voting? Done with sympathy votes?

no Sympathy points continue to play a role. Just different. Why did the rowdy teens from Måneskin win in 2021? Probably because, due to the lockdown, a number of sections of the population across Europe who would normally be out and about at the weekend were watching the ESC: young people. People who like rock music more. In short, people who would otherwise not be interested in the contest. They gave the contract to the act they liked the most. Those are sympathy voices.

And this year? The uncatchable favorite is the Ukrainian Kalush Orchestra. And – hand on heart – probably only because of her song “Stefania”, which is a hyperactive jumble of rap, wooden flute and lamentation. Objectively speaking, for example, «Space Man», the British entry, would clearly be the better track – a perfectly written pop song. But in 2022, something more important is happening in Europe than turning to comforting pop songs. The all-encompassing support for the Kalush Orchestra is an award of points based on expressions of sympathy in the classic sense.

And that’s just as well.

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