Oops. They did it again. For the second year running, Ukraine will hold a “do-over” after accusations of vote rigging marred the victory of 24-year old Mika Newton.
Ukrainian broadcaster NTU released the results of the February 26 finale in the name of transparency—and voters quickly noticed discrepancies. Newton’s victory stemmed in part from repeat voting: she received an average of 14.5 votes per phone, while Jamala (who placed third) received an average of 1.7 votes per phone. That means more people actually voted for Jamala (though they voted fewer times). Adding fuel to the fire, jury member Anna Herman—who also works for the NTU—told the Kyiv Post that some of the folks putting on the show knew in advance that Newton would win long before voting even took place.
So what’s a broadcaster to do? NTU said today that it will invite the top three finishers from the Feb. 26 final—that’s Mika Newton with “Angels, Zlata Ognevich with “The Kukushka” and Jamala with “Smile”—to compete in a second final on March 3. The winner will be determined by SMS text voting, and they will follow a one number/one vote policy.
As you may remember, last year Ukraine’s first representative Vasyl Lazarovych was stripped of his title and voters chose to send Alyosha to Oslo during a second national contest. But even then controversy reared its head: officials discovered that Alyosha’s winning song “To Be Free” had been written and performed and made available to the public months ahead of the legal date. So she scurried and came up with a new song—”Sweet People”—in which she railed against nuclear holocaust and howled into a wind machine.
It’s enough to make you miss the good old days when smutty Ukrainian pop could just be smutty Ukrainian pop and win on its own merits (read: Svetlana Loboda 2009).