There seems a compulsion in the West to lampoon Eurovision on the basis of what we perceive to be Eastern bloc voting. What in the mid-00s tended to apply to everything east of Germany has become rather more nuanced and is now split variously between the Balkans, ex-Soviets and Former Yugoslav Republics.

The gaping hole in any argument made by the West is that it turns a blind eye to equally blatant Western and Scandinavian vote-swapping. I don’t put much weight into the idea of political bloc voting and tend, perhaps naively, to view it as a cultural matter instead. Regardless of why certain countries vote for one another – it’s a fact of Eurovision life that they do.

Azerbaijan, Russia and Belarus have all found themselves in the firing line. Annoying as bloc voting is, it isn’t fair to lampoon them (and them alone) when the Scandinavians are doing the same thing. Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland all awarded high points to Sweden’s Sanna Nielsen but nobody batted an eyelid. Admittedly Sanna didn’t get douze points from all of them but she was backed by some regional voting power nonetheless. Iceland and Sweden both gave 8 points to Denmark. Do you hear any complaints or uproar? You certainly don’t hear Western folks complaining that Ukraine looked west and gave Sanna 12 points too. A good song cuts across all borders…

http://youtu.be/FPSJyKC-zy0

Ultimately the view that bloc voting is political boils down to politics. The public cries “bloc voting” with Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia because they don’t conform to perceived Western values of democracy and freedom. Yes, they are all dictatorships. And while their neighbourly pat on the back at Eurovision is annoying if your nation doesn’t benefit, the fact is they’re hardly the only countries guilty of voting for each other – whether it’s organised or not.

Fans can complain about bloc voting, but they should really complain about it in general terms – not focusing on the specific blocs involved. And if they do, they really shouldn’t absolve all the Western ones. It’s unfair and also hypocritical. The UK is perhaps the biggest criminal in all of this. In 2007 we ranted at the Eurovision world and cried bloc voting – but our only points that year were a 12 from Malta (a member of the Commonwealth) and a 7 from Ireland.

Since 2009, bloc voting has had little impact on the overall winner – with the only possible exception being Azerbaijan in 2011 (a particularly close year with no clear favourites). The victories of Germany in 2010 and Austria in 2014, and the second place result of the Netherlands this year should put to rest unnecessary speculation about “unfair” and seemingly destructive bloc voting. Just get over it.

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Alexanderized
Alexanderized
5 years ago

One must also realise that quite often neichbour countries exchange points because they share similar music experiences and for instance, a lot of Russian artists are widely popular in, say, Ukraine and Belarus and vice versa. I agree that the “dominating” song always wins, otherwise Russia would win every year. But Russia ends up both in the first half and the second half.

And I personally think that one must be either arrogant or stupid to deny that Russian entries overall are of good quality and that’s the main reason why the qualify to the final each year.

LEAPerce
LEAPerce
6 years ago

First, people stop hating on the UK, we aren’t ALL like that at all! It’s a generalisation thanks to Terry Wogan. Now we have Graham Norton who is much better. Also, for the last 3 years both UK and Ireland have given 12 points to the winners, not each other, so those saying ‘uk and Ireland always give each other 12 points’…no, we don’t at all. I do find it irritating when the Soviets give 12 points to Russia or Belarus even though this years songs were genuinely awful (especially Teo). But I think Armenia doesn’t tend to get so… Read more »

Just being honest
Just being honest
6 years ago

Yes, bloc voting exists. But these are just challenges that need to be overcome at ESC in order to get a good result and win.

Carl of Usa
Carl of Usa
6 years ago

Every countries at Eurovision,give their points to Neighbours!!

Bledar Leka
Bledar Leka
6 years ago

@Alex, I think it’s due to low viewing. As Albania only has a small population (about 3 million), that can sometimes mean that only a few hundred thousand (or even less) votes. When we qualify to the final we have higher viewing so we use televotes. Also outside of Tirana we often have poor telecommunications

Ciaran
Ciaran
6 years ago

I’m sorry no, there’s a big difference between giving a country SOME points each year and what the east does which is give all your neighbours the high marks every year.

Scandinavia are perfectly able to give 0s to each other. When will Belarus ever give 0 to Russia or Lativa give 0 to Lithuania.

beHappy
beHappy
6 years ago

“Sorry but this article is somewhat wrong. There is a huuuuge difference in the Western bloc voting and the Eastern bloc voting. ”
Yes, and the difference is called Western Hypocrisy. And your post is just a huuuuge evidence.

Darren
Darren
6 years ago

@Robyn
I think it is safe to say that Serbia, Russia and Azerbaijan won on the back of bloc voting.
Especially Helsinki 2007. There was barely any Western European countries in the final, apart from the big 4 and 1 or 2 others.
Granted, Western European countries didnt really bother with ESC from 2004-2009 but some very good songs were often forgotten in the semi-finals in favour of other countries.

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

@Bledar: You know, I’ve always wondered: why is Albania’s TV station so incompetent at counting televotes? It’s as though they aren’t even trying. Or is ESC not popular enough in Albania to get enough votes?

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

@Robyn: Well, another different issue that isn’t really mentioned here is the element of diaspora voting. I’ve always thought it was interesting that the same year that Turkey failed to make the final, Azerbaijan won with a very small percentage of the total vote, and Ell and Nikki came out carrying the Turkish flag along with the Azerbaijani one.

Generally the best song wins, yes. Still, it’s a bit sad when countries like San Marino and Andorra have to work extra hard to make the final.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
6 years ago

Yeah, there are undeniable voting blocs in both Eastern and Western Europe, but the most important thing to remember is that the best song always ends up winning.

Has there ever been a time in recent years when you’ve thought, “Oh, that song only won because all the [countries of a particular voting bloc] voted for it.”? No. Because in order for a song to win, it has to get support across the board.

So while voting blocs exists (and there’s nothing wrong with that), the Eurovision voting system means that they cannot dominate and the best song still wins.

Eric
Eric
6 years ago

No voting system is completely “fair”, especially if you are dealing with opinions on live performances. This is also another point where juries may differ from televoting. What you see and hear on the screen can be vastly different from watching the performance live. The best you can do is make the process transparent so that, at a minimum, the juries will have to vote knowing they will be scrutinized and tossed if it appears to be a concerted choice to manipulate.

Bledar Leka
Bledar Leka
6 years ago

I think Albania (my country) is the only Easterm European country to be often non-neighbourly when voting. For example in 2007 and 2012 we gave our 12 to Spain whilst in 2013 we gave it to Italy. But that is mainly due to the fact that most of the votes are 100% jury. When the televotes are counted we normally vote for Greece

MTD
MTD
6 years ago

Winners: 2005 – Greece 2006 – Finland 2007 – Serbia 2008 – Russia 2009 – Norway 2010 – Germany 2011 – Azerbaijan 2012 – Sweden 2013 – Denmark 2014 – Austria Instead of these “winners” (the way your hysteria suggests): 2005 – Romania/Latvia (first in that order of “Eastern bloc voting”) 2006 – Russia 2007 – Serbia (it’s Eastern/Balkan enough for you?) 2008 – Russia (East as Eastern can be) 2009 – Azerbaijan 2010 – Turkey 2011 – Azerbaijan (Oil rich East) 2012 – Russia 2013 – Ukraine 2014 – Armenia Please, say more of that “Eastern voting bloc patterns”.… Read more »

Marco
Marco
6 years ago

I guess what most western eurpeans mean by “eastern bloc voting” is just the fact that for some 30+ years, eurovision was an exclusively western european thing (with some small exceptions). then, when in the 90s all the new eastern european and even asian countries started to participate, many western europeans felt that eurovision had been “taken away” from them, by countries that still raised some suspect in the mind of big parts of the population. these countries then became a majority of eurovision contestants and, with the help of their diaspora, managed to win almost every contest between 2002… Read more »

Leon
Leon
6 years ago

I totally agree with this post! Western Europe is no better. And, I never thought I’d see that lady in red again (the Spanish lady), I guess I was wrong….I still can’t get over the fact that she forgot that she forgot to announce their eight points. That never happens lol

Hans Wollstein
Hans Wollstein
6 years ago

This year, Norway awarded Denmark 1 (one) point. Tell me about “they all do it” when Azerbaijan gets away with giving Mother Russia one point.

Deven O'Kearney
Deven O'Kearney
6 years ago

In fairness, bloc voting has really died down in 2013. I mean, how rare is it when Russia gives 8 points to Belgium or Serbia giving 12 points to Denmark or even Ukraine the 12 to Sweden? Very very rare. In fact, almost alien.

Azeri
Azeri
6 years ago

Georgia and Montenegro in eurovision next year- it says on wiki))

Charles
Charles
6 years ago

The visibility of how much and how in your face formers soviet countries and former Yugoslav countries tend to share the top scores among themselves is too greater to be considered of the same level as Cyprus and Greece giving each other 12 all the time since the 80s (for the most part but reinforced by televoting) or Portugal with Spain or the UK with Ireland … like Alex said … it takes more than two to be a bloc … I understand the cultural criteria and inevitabilities that explain why an Irish televoter will give the UK votes or… Read more »

Schoenbot
Schoenbot
6 years ago

Angus, you have hit most of the points that I have always disliked about political “bloc-voting,” or rather, complaining about it, and I am glad that at least someone shares the same views. You can argue all you like about how political voting among other countries prevents your own country from doing well, but then suddenly when your neighbor gives you points, you thank your “friends” (likewise, if they don’t give you any points, you throw a fit). I won’t deny that neighbor voting happens, but I am more inclined to believe that it really doesn’t affect who the winner… Read more »

Diane
Diane
6 years ago

You know why people didn’t notice the Scandinavian bloc voting? It’s simply because they sent some good songs to Eurovision. This year, everyone loves Sanna Nielsen’s song (cracking the Top 40 UK Chart, right?) Softengine and Basim are also the fresh acts that Eurovision needs so much. And they also consider the quality of the music as well, remember Tooji? Who gave points to him? I think this what makes a difference between Scandinavian bloc voting and eastern bloc voting where eastern bloc voting tends to vote to their neighbours regardless of the quality of the song. So next time… Read more »

Darren
Darren
6 years ago

@DR
Us Irish love you guys!! We are bestos!
Dont be saying that! We’re always having the bant together, the past is the past
Ireland and UK’s friendship is stronger than ever 🙂

Darren
Darren
6 years ago

The west does not bloc-vote as often as the Ex-Soviets and the Ex-Yugoslavs do. Sweden and Denmark gave their 12 points to Ireland in 2011. Ireland gave its 12 points to Sweden in 2012, Denmark in 2013 and Austria in 2014 (They arent neighbours) Portugal sometimes gives it highest points to France while Italy usually gives high points to Albania, Romania and Armenia. Yet the eastern blocs always either give their 12 points to Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus or Ukraine, regardless of song, and it is repeated every year. Plus, it takes more than 2 to create a bloc, also, if… Read more »

David
David
6 years ago

Sorry but this article is somewhat wrong. There is a huuuuge difference in the Western bloc voting and the Eastern bloc voting. For example you dont see the scandinaviam countries., like sweden for example giving norway 12 points automatically each year. While several Eastern European countries gives their 12 points or three highest points automatically to the same countries year after year. Sweden has not given their 12 points to the same country for maaany years.

Eastern Europes bloc voting is more evident than the Wests.

Georgi
Georgi
6 years ago

I think every countries at Eurovision give their votes to Neighbours!!!only 1 thing that Armenia gave12 points to Montenegro!!!(Any Favourite Countries(Sweden,Ukraine) couldn’t get any poinnts from Armenia)GREAT PROPAGANDA for chance to win!!!

straycat
straycat
6 years ago

Weird article. It’s not like Scandinavian bloc voting is like some deep hidden secret that nobody knew about, right? And it’s not at all surprising when neighbouring countries share e.g. a language, culture and music industry. Well I can see how it would be incomprehensible to UK fans, because “having neighbours” and “sharing” are incomprehensible in the UK on international level. One thing that is different, though, between western and eastern Europe is that w European borders have in general been dicked about with less in living memory. Ww2 is an obvious exception, but for western Europe that was mostly… Read more »

SpirK
SpirK
6 years ago

I must say I agree with the author. Yes, the ex-Yugoslav and the Soviet blocs are consistent but the Scandinavians also have a strong bloc. And it actually isn’t a small bloc, consisting of the most benefited Sweden and at a smaller degree benefited Denmark and Norway, the snubbed Iceland and Finland and occasionally Estonia. 6 countries do make up a voting bloc. And every one of these give their top scores to one of the others. For example let’s take Eurovision 2008 when all the Scandinavians where in the final. Norway had a killer of a song, Denmark and… Read more »

Oostenrijk
Oostenrijk
6 years ago

I found it very disturbing how some Western countries sank the great Armenian song this year, like Belgium, UK and Germany, whereas others didn’t like France, Netherlands or Austria.

Of course Armenia did the same with all the bookies favourites, even with Ukraine, so I wonder if juries did us a big favour this year or if the new jury system since last year wronged the results. Many combined votes don’t look fair to me.

Oostenrijk
Oostenrijk
6 years ago

Well, sometimes a song or an act wins (1998, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014) and sometimes a country wins (2008, 2011), and often a country with a base cuts the edge for a song to win (1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013)

DR
DR
6 years ago

I don’t believe block voting exists as prevalent as people say, and I’m a Brit. No one country can win by only friends alone. It’s mathematically impossible. Also generally it is not political voting as like, “It’s my neighbour so I will vote for them.” It is a more cultural affair. Malta and Ireland don’t like us that much, it is because of a shared language and shared culture between us. Cyprus and Greece are practically the same country, that is why they give each other points. The same happens to shared culture of Iberian countries of, Spain, Portugal, and… Read more »

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

Where is the evidence for this supposed Western voting bloc, ignoring Scandinavia? It’s not in the link you provided! I mean, it’s true that very few people complain about Scandinavian vote swapping. But it’s not as though Ireland, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, San Marino, Germany, and Italy (and so forth) are holding a party where everybody is giving each other 12 points all the time. The crucial point you’re missing is that the ex-Soviet bloc is so big that it has a massive effect on the results in the contest, whereas Scandinavia is a much smaller group of countries, and… Read more »

Timselvision
Timselvision
6 years ago

I always said that it´s kinda legit that you vote for the country with which you feel sortof connected. Belgium is part of the Benelux, AND a Dutch-speaking country. We, Dutchies for example, kinda feel us connected with Belgium. Also, it may be that people have friends in other countries, so they vote for their friend´s country. Logic, right? I also laugh a lot because the UK is complaining that they never win “because nobody votes for us”. You came freaking 5th in 2009 and 2011 11th with the most terrible performance of the evening! 😛 And also, when you… Read more »