A Note on "Bloc Voting"
As the Eurovision Song Contest has grown and expanded over the years, going from seven nations participating in 1956 to 42 in the 2009 contest, unofficial “alliances” have been established between nations, often due to shared linguistic, cultural, or geographical histories. For example, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland will often swap votes with each other, as do the nations of the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. More recently, current patterns of immigration have begun to influence expected voting patterns, with Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France often sending votes to Turkey or Armenia, or Spain and Portugal voting for Romania or Moldova.
For some nations, this is a massive boost. For example, last year’s winner, Norway’s “Fairytale”, sung by Alexander Rybak, benefited from not just a strong presentation, but the fact that Norway is located in the heart of the “Scandinavian Bloc”. Furthermore, Rybak was actually born in Belarus and speaks fluent Russian, so the “Former Soviet Bloc” also stood up and took notice. Granted, this doesn’t take away from the fact that “Fairytale” was a great and charming song, but it makes you wonder what would have happened if it had been presented by a representative from, say, San Marino (who came dead last in their first and only participation, back in 2008, despite a well-produced song).
There are a few interesting anomalies to the voting bloc phenomenon, however. Since their first participation in 1973, Israel has managed three victories and 18 top-ten finishes total. So, although they share no borders with any other nation participating in the contest, have no linguistically similar voting partner to fall back on (all of their wins were sung in Hebrew), and many countries have even refrained from joining or continuing in Eurovision in the first place due to Israel’s presence in the competition, over half of their 32 entries have merited Top Ten placements.
Malta has had similar success, despite being literally and figuratively insular. They’ve participated a total of 22 times since 1971, and have had 12 Top Ten finishes (no wins, but two silvers and two bronzes). Granted, Valletta tends to send songs in English, but they really have no official voting bloc to depend on.
Why do I bring this topic up now? Well, if I proceed alphabetically through our little tour of Eurovision Entries for 2010, the next stamp in our passports will be Cyprus, which has directly been affected by the benefits and drawbacks of bloc voting. But more on that in a bit…
(Graphic taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_at_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest)