The EBU has tried so hard to make the game of Eurovision fun and fair. From jury inspections to fraud investigations to allocation pots, they have made every effort to rid themselves of the phenomenon known as “bloc voting”. Sadly, some things cannot be stopped completely, and Monday’s allocation draw has proved that immensely.
Although we can unanimously agree that we will have some relief at the second semi-final, it’s obvious that strong alliances exist in semi-final one. We will look at both semi-finals and how the odds stack up for and against some countries. Some of the facts in this editorial will be more obvious than “Flor-De-Lis” singer Daniela Varela’s fabulous weight loss, and we are fully aware that the song choice is very important, but we are solely looking at trends and voting patterns in accordance with the draw, and the only way to make the argument stronger is to repeat the strong points over again. Let’s dig into the semi-finals and see what we can predict.
Every year, there is an “easier” semi-final, and a “harder” semi-final. Usually, the one without Russia is easier. This year is no exception, and so Russia’s placement into the first semi-final (as normal) has made it the more intense semi-final.
Putting the Soviet bloc aside for a moment, we see four pairs of countries eagerly waiting to give each other their twelves.
First are the two survivors of the Benelux trio, Belgium and the Netherlands. Both are in the same position as last year, having each other and France to get points from. France might be more generous to francophone Loïc Nottet this year, given that his song is leaps and bounds better than Axel Hirsoux’s last year.
The Netherlands have already revealed their song. For the third year running, the land of tulips and stroopwafels has sent a magnificently strong entry. This has been caused by Anouk’s transformation of Dutch Eurovision in 2013 and her ever-growing rivalry with last year’s co-runner-up Ilse de Lange. In order to enact catty revenge, Anouk’s friend Traincha and her song “Walk Along” have been sent.
The song has already seen positive and negative views, similar to the Common Linnets, but knowing how the Dutch do things now, we can expect almost all positive opinions by the time of the contest. Already, they have a leg up from having Belgium and France voting for them. Looking specifically at the past two years, Denmark, Finland, and Estonia have been particularly helpful as well. Luckily, all three of those countries are in the same semi-final and will likely give Traincha the boost she needs to place well in the semi-final and final.
Going to the Balkans, we see that Macedonia in particular has picked a relatively weak song knowing what the other countries in the semi-final are capable of. Albania is their sole true supporter left, as both Croatia and Bosnia have left for this edition. This isn’t enough to help Macedonia into the final, and the way things look now, we should scratch them off the betting odds for another year. Albania, however, has picked a strong song that will warrant high points from Greece and Macedonia, given that the retouching doesn’t destroy the song like last year.
Moldova and Romania can continue their love affair after last year’s separation. Every year, the two countries will give top points to each other. With a linguistic and cultural connection, this can be expected.
We also can look at Estonia and Finland. The two Finnic countries in Eurovision have already been poised to place high in the odds despite neither one having even picked their entry. The two of them are usually helpful to each other, although Finland more so to Estonia than vice versa. Estonia has usually given their points to Russia instead, which brings us to…
Russia is in a slightly tougher position this year without its former comrade Ukraine competing, and being separated from its little brother Azerbaijan. Thankfully, several other countries are lining up to give twelves to Mother Russia. Estonia, Belarus, Moldova, and Armenia are notorious for giving points to Russia. They all have large ethnic Russian populations who remain enthusiastically patriotic both inside and outside of Eurovision. Russia will be keeping its semi-final qualification record intact for now, it seems.
You may have noticed that we did not mention Georgia in the Soviet bloc. Not so strangely, Georgia is not overenthusiastic about giving Russia points. After all, Russia did occupy two parts of Georgia way before the Crimean crisis last year. Georgia has formed a strange voting bloc with two other countries that seem to be nearly unrelated in any other way: Ireland and Lithuania. Georgia has picked a strong song this year, Nina Sublatti’s “Warrior”, and it has been given good reception, having won the latest poll on wiwibloggs. Sadly, the only dependable neighbor Georgia has left in this semi-final is Armenia. Could this possibly lead to Georgia’s third non-qualification?
Denmark has lucked out in the past few years. Their international sound has usually captivated Europe, primarily its northern neighbors. Sadly, Denmark has been given a short straw when it comes to its semi-final. Finland isn’t so brotherly with Denmark as the other Scandinavian countries, and those are all in the other semi-final. That’s not to say that Finland won’t throw out some points, as they gave Soluna five points, Emmelie seven points, and Basim six, but it might not help so much in the end. The Soviets (except Estonia) aren’t too kind to Denmark. Most of them didn’t even give too many points to Emmelie! Could we see Denmark take a tumble in the semi-finals this year?
This semi-final is less allied, but there is still some hinting. We have found some interesting possibilities, however…
Lithuania is one of Eurovision’s endlessly hopeless countries, having never placed in the top 5, and cracking the top 10 once with a joke of an entry, albeit memorable. It seems that they might be in luck this year, given that they pick a strong song-artist combo.
The three countries that are prone to giving Lithuania points (namely Latvia, Ireland, and the UK) are all voting in Lithuania’s semi-final, as well as Poland. If there is no space girl fashion disaster, Lithuania could actually fare really well in the semi-final.
Central European Bloc
Now that the Czech Republic and Poland are back for good, we may or may not see the formation of a new bloc focused in Central Europe. This bloc would include Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Germany, and possibly Austria or Hungary. We will have to wait to see if this bloc will fully form, but for now, we can already predict Germany and Poland giving high points to each other.
Like the Soviet alliance in the first semi-final, the Scandinavians can be an obstacle for other countries in this semi-final. Ireland continues to be a wild card in its voting, as they tend to vote high for both Lithuania and the Scandinavian countries. Most info about this alliance is common sense and won’t be discussed further, but countries competing against them need to know that they have to step up their game… a lot.
Lots of “Bachelors”
Other than Lithuania’s helpers and the Scandinavian countries, the other ten or so countries left aren’t in a very advantageous position, with no neighbors to really help.
Azerbaijan, for the first time, has to rely on the merit of the song over neighbor votes. After investigations over bribes through multiple juries in prior years, Azerbaijan suffered a blow to their ego when Dilara Kazimova became the first Azeri act to place out of the top 8. They usually are helped in the semi-final and final by Russia, Moldova, Georgia (all in the other semi-final), Ukraine, and Turkey (both withdrawn). Even Sweden, their song supplier, barely gives them help. For the first time, Azerbaijan’s domination might collapse in the semi-final.
The other countries here are a mixed bag, mostly vying for British votes. Until we see what songs they bring, nothing can really be determined.
Although bloc voting is a tricky topic that can be met with controversial views, this year’s semi-final draw has showed that alliances are strong and the pots do almost nothing to stop them. We do invite you to share your opinion below: do you think this year will be prone to bloc voting in the semi-finals? Do you think the allocation draw was fair? Who might need an extra boost this year, and who has been helped?