Happy Thursday! Yesterday we introduced our crash course on the Eurovision Song Contest. Today’s installment: the politics of Eurovision.
Each participating country has 12 votes to spend in the final round, whether or not they make it in themselves. Half of those 12 votes comes from a jury, and the other half comes from phone voting within the country. The scoring system is very confusing, but maximum score a country can award is all 12 of its votes — the famous “douze points.”
These voting patterns make the contest very interesting from a geopolitical perspective. Big rival countries often cancel out each other’s successes, while small neighboring countries tend to make informal alliances, which may be why tiny Azerbaijan won in 2011. (Example of a stable voting alliance: Cyprus has always given its 12 points to Greece, and will continue to do so until it sinks into the Mediterranean.)
Entries can also reflect countries’ internal political debates. While the overwhelming majority of winners perform in gloriously accented English in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience, France has almost always submitted its entry in French, with the recent exception of the minority Corsican language. Spain, which has much more controversy over minority languages and cultures, has never had a contestant perform in a language other than Spanish. This year it’s offering “Contigo hasta el final” by Asturian band El sueño de Morfeo, which features some very distinctively northwestern Iberian bagpipes. For more on language, politics, and culture in Eurovision, check out this 2010 New Yorker essay by Anthony Lane.
The winning country hosts the contest the following year. This led to some uncomfortable crackdowns on dissenters in Azerbaijan last year to keep the show running smoothly, though we’re not expecting anything like that in Sweden this year. Check back tomorrow for more Eurovision coverage!
(Above: that’s Azerbaijan, silly.)