Friends or foes? Italy explodes after San Marino gives Francesco Gabbani just 3 points

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The Eurovision 2017 grand final is now two weeks behind us, but the drama is far from over. Italian fans remain surprised and bitter after San Marino’s jury awarded “only” three points to pre-contest favourite Francesco Gabbani.

Criticism of neighbourly voting is common at the contest — for example, this year we saw the usual exchange of twelve points between Greece and Cyprus. We should not forget that many nations share the same culture, language and taste and this may affect the way the audience and the jury select their favourites.

But although San Marino and Italy have many things in common, at Eurovision the two nations definitely don’t share the same tastes.

If we look at the voting pattern from 2011 to 2017, both in the semis and the final, San Marino’s jury only gave Italy twelve points once. That was in the year of their comeback, when Raphael Gualazzi reached second place with “Madness of Love”.

The jurors of the little republic awarded seven points to Nina Zilli in 2012, four points to Marco Mengoni in 2012, a big fat zero to Emma Marrone in 2014 and a couple of tens to Il Volo in 2015 and Francesca Michielin in 2016. There’s nothing here to take for granted, honey!

For its part, Italy has had fewer chances to vote for San Marino. On five occasions (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) Italy was drawn to vote in the semi-final where San Marino didn’t take part. And in those years San Marino never made it to the grand final.

But in 2012 and 2015 Italy supported its li’l neighbour, giving three points to Valentina Monetta‘s “The Social Network Song” and six points to the young duo of Michele Perniola and Anita Simoncini. Given the placing of those songs, these points can be seen as very generous indeed.

In 2014, when Valentina proceeded to the final with “Maybe”, Italian jurors ranked her performance dead last. This cancelled out any chance to get points, thanks to the Italian audience at home who had the Sammarinese artist sixth in their ranking.

Surprisingly, Eurovision is year after year the most talked-about TV show in Italy during its week, both on Twitter and Facebook. And it’s always funny to see the reaction of Italian users to the Sammarinese votes.

This year Italians did not just fill Twitter with their anger and playful takedowns. They moved further by vandalizing the official Wikipedia page of San Marino and wound up in newspapers and websites (such as Il Resto del Carlino, Wired and Radio 105) which reported on the giant wave of disdain.

The fallout from Gabbani-gate have been so vehement that San Marino RTV‘s director Carlo Romeo reacted through his channel‘s web site:

First of all, for decades I have been fighting in every context against the rigged exchange of votes which is, moreover, formally prohibited by the Eurovision regulation. Secondly, San Marino RTV nominates the ESC Sammarinese jury, which obviously has all our confidence. We would never influence it. Fabrizio Raggi, the president this year, is a prominent professional and artist and knows the event very well, especially as our jury voted for the Portuguese winner, in line with other European colleagues. Third and last, when the Italian jury does not vote for the Sammarinese artist, which happens almost always, nobody here protests.

The Sammarinese Head of Delegation Alessandro Capicchioni also felt the urge to share his point of view in an article published right after the show.

Some people talk of infamy, betrayal, shame and vengeance, others more sympathetically of invasion, denial of access to the sea, paying taxes. The daring ones have been pushing themselves to change the Sammarinese Wikipedia page and these are my favorites, it’s almost a shame I did not have time to read them all because they were really funny (…) It seems that people on the web are not able to search for information or reason on them. The first and most important thing to know is when the juries meet and which show they see — because you know that they don’t judge the Saturday finale. It’s hard to judge something you did not see, especially what the jurors see, the effect of the performances on TV. The artists don’t always make the most of their performance during the jury rehearsal.

Then, the HoD listed a long series of numbers, votes and circumstances, taking into account both Eurovision and Junior Eurovision (San Marino gave twelve points to Vincenzo Cantiello and zero to Chiara and Martina Scarpari, while Italy gave eight points to The Peppermints and zero points to Kamilla Ismailova).

The conclusion seems to me to be obvious: the Sammarinese jury tends to vote in a similar manner to other European juries, but with a special consideration for Italy, towards which it’s more generous generally, while the opposite can not be said.

What do you think of this drama? Should Italy always expect big points from San Marino or is right that both juries vote honestly? Let us know in the comments below.

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