Politics, rivalry, coercion: Highlights of Eurovision 2014 voting results

After major concerns over voting fraud at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the EBU decided it was time to boost transparency. It released a full breakdown of both jury and televoting results immediately after this year’s broadcast.

How did politics affect this year’s voting? Were there any irregularities in any jury’s scores? Who benefited the most from the televote and the jury vote? What does this mean for Eurovision’s voting system going into 2015? Here are some key findings from this year’s results.

The real hate is between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
All members of the Armenian jury ranked Azerbaijan dead last. Azerbaijan was also last in the Armenian televoting. The Azeri people reciprocated, ranking Armenia last both in the jury vote and in the televoting. These results indicate that there are still tensions between the two countries stemming from their long-time conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ukraine and Russia actually decided to focus on the music.
One would think after the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and Russia would rank each other last amongst their juries. However, the exchange of points indicate that political tensions did not spill over into Eurovision. Russia awarded Ukraine 7 points (ranked sixth among the jury, forth in televoting), and Ukraine awarded Russia 4 points (ranked tenth among the jury, third in televoting).

Coordinated, manipulated voting apparent in Azeri and Belarussian juries.
The jurors nearly voted the same way for all 25 acts. When one looks at all five juror rankings for each country, there is little variability between each juror ranking. The Azeri/Belarussian rankings suggest that there was deliberate coordination. There is little to no probability that these similar rankings happened by chance. Here is a breakdown of the Azeri/Belarussian jury scores with averages and standard deviations. Note: the numbers in the columns indicate place ranking.

Considering both Azerbaijan and Belarus are countries with authoritarian governments, could jurors face coercion from their governments to vote a certain way?

Major rivalry exists between Scandinavian and ex-Soviet bloc states.
After the crumbling of the Balkan voting bloc in 2013, the two dominant voting blocs, the Scandinavian bloc and ex-Soviet bloc, attempt to destroy each other in this year’s contest – using both their national juries and televoters. Very few points were exchanged between the two voting blocs. As you can see below, both Scandinavian juries and televoters were anything but generous with their points. Note: the numbers in each column except “Points awarded” indicate place ranking.

The ex-Soviet juries and televoters also did not show much mercy to the Scandinavian acts. One exception is Ukraine’s 12 points to Sweden’s Sanna Nielsen.

When the juries were first introduced back in 2008, the intent was to prevent bloc voting. However, the breakdown of jury results for the Scandinavian and ex-Soviet voting blocs show otherwise. Ironically, national juries may be leveraging their own voting powers to revive bloc voting as a weapon against other countries rather aid to a neighboring country.

Eastern European juries are more conservative than their own people:
While Austria decisively won the contest, several countries’ juries tried hard to derail Conchita’s victory. Those countries were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Montenegro, and Poland. However, televoters disagreed with their juries. Austria was ranked second in the Armenian televoting, third in the Azeri televoting, forth in the Belarussian and Polish televoting, and fifth in the Montenegrin televoting. If the EBU scrapped the jury in this year’s contest, Austria would have won with 315 points based on the televoting only.

Austria, Poland, and Switzerland benefited most from televoting:
From 1997 to 2007, only televoting decided the winner of the contest. If this were the case, Austria’s margin of victory would have been greater. Poland would have finished fifth instead of fourteenth, and Switzerland would have finished seventh instead of thirteenth. The biggest loser would have been Norway, dropping from eighth (88 points) to seventeenth (39 points).

Eurovision 2014 Televoting Results

1. Austria – 315
2. The Netherlands – 220
3. Sweden – 194
4. Armenia – 193
5. Poland – 150
6. Russia – 132
7. Switzerland – 115
8. Ukraine – 112
9. Romania – 101
10. Hungary – 98
11. Belarus – 56
12. Finland – 45
13. Spain – 45
14. Iceland – 43
15. Greece – 41
16. Denmark – 41
17. Norway – 39
18. Montenegro – 33
19. Italy – 32
20. Germany – 31
21. Azerbaijan – 26
22. United Kingdom – 24
23. San Marino – 23
24. Malta – 21
25. Slovenia – 15
26. France – 1

Austria’s margin of victory evaporated under a jury-only scoring system.
If ESC 2014 was under the pre-1997 jury-only scoring system, Austria would have won with 224 points. Sweden and the Netherlands would have finished with 201 and 200 points respectively. Overall, it would have been a much closer contest. Malta, Finland, and Azerbaijan would have benefitted the most, finishing sixth, seventh, and eighth respectively. Here is a full breakdown below:

Eurovision 2014: Jury results

1. Austria – 224
2. Sweden – 201
3. The Netherlands – 200
4. Hungary – 138
5. Armenia – 125
6. Malta – 119
7. Finland – 114
8. Azerbaijan – 108
9. Norway – 102
10. Denmark – 85
11. Spain – 83
12. Ukraine – 78
13. Russia – 70
14. Germany – 61
15. Iceland – 59
16. Romania – 51
17. Belarus – 50
18. Greece – 49
19. Montenegro – 48
20. United Kingdom – 47
21. Italy – 37
22. Switzerland – 27
23. Poland – 23
24. Slovenia – 21
25. San Marino – 21
26. France – 5

Conclusions. The contest has made some dynamic shifts over the past ten years. In 2004, fans saw the emergence of the Balkan and ex-Soviet countries. In 2008, bloc voting was so rampant that juries were introduced. In 2012, Eurovision held its contest at its most eastern location, Baku. Now, Eurovision is heading back to the West with two dominant voting blocs and a disintegrated and disengaged Balkan bloc. It begs the question: Does the EBU need to scrap juries and bring back a televoting-only scoring system? How can the EBU hold countries accountable for engaging in ethical behavior? The contest and its format are constantly changing. This story is to be continued…

The ESCritic is a frequent contributor to WiwiBloggs.com. You can visit his web site at http://theescritic.blogspot.co.uk/. You can also keep up-to-date with the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following the team on Twitter @wiwibloggs and by liking our Facebook page.