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…
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.