The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Maltese involvement in alleged Eurovision vote rigging strongly denied

Malta Independent Friday, 13 September 2013, 17:26 Last update: about 11 years ago

Media reports suggesting that Malta may be involved in vote rigging allegations concerning the Eurovision Song Contest have been strongly denied by PBS, which pointed out that the evidence does not support the claims.

The allegations, which are being investigated by the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest – the European Broadcasting Union – were first revealed by the Skånska Dagbladet, a newspaper which is based in the host city of this year’s contest, Malmö.

The newspaper quoted an anonymous executive involved in the organisation of the festival, who claimed that several countries were buying and trading jury votes to maximise their results.

Presently, each country’s vote is based on two factors, which are given equal weighting: televoting and the vote of juries appointed by each of the participating countries’ broadcasters – PBS in Malta’s case.

According to the Skånska Dagbladet’s source, the jury voting is particularly problematic, as it allowed for the manipulation of the Eurovision results through vote exchanges and outright vote-buying.

The allegations centre mainly around Azerbaijan, which won the contest in 2011, and Malta earned itself a mention in the reporting of these allegations since it has awarded the country the maximum 12 points every year since 2010.

Both The Mirror and Yahoo noted Malta’s preference for Azerbaijan in past years, and while both also noted that the Azerbaijanis are accused of offering to bribe jury members with “enough money to live off for a year” in exchange for their votes, Yahoo explicitly states that they bribed Maltese delegates.

Curiously, however, the original reports on Skånska Dagbladet do not mention Malta, and when contacted, PBS CEO Anton Attard noted that claims that Malta was involved in wrongdoing appeared to be the result of wild extrapolation from the initial claims.

Mr Attard also confirmed, after contacting jury members, that they strongly deny any wrongdoing, and that in any case, their voting patterns do not back the claims made.

While Malta did give the top points to Azerbaijan in the past four concerts, the jury only awarded the country its highest score once – when it won the contest two years ago.

On the other occasions, therefore, Azerbaijan earned its 12 points as a result of a strong tele-voting result.

An unusual coincidence, perhaps, but Azerbaijan’s entry does tend to receive prominent coverage in Malta. Its singers have made it a point to visit Malta over the past few years, including this year’s participant Farid Mammadov.

In any case, as Mr Attard points out, neither PBS nor anyone else in Malta has any control over the tele-voting results: the process is controlled directly by the EBU.

Other claims of irregularities concerning the Azerbaijan and the Eurovision vote have also surfaced this year.

The UK’s finalist, Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, had told a French newspaper that she overheard Russians complaining with their Azeri counterparts that they had not given them the “10 points we paid for.” Azerbaijan’s failure to award any points to its neighbouring country had actually led to an inquiry ordered by President Ilham Aliyev.

Last May, Lithuanian website 15min had also published a surreptitiously-recorded film in which Russian-speaking men are offering cash to youngsters to back Azerbaijan.

In a reaction to the Skånska Dagbladet’s story, Eurovision’s event supervisor Sietse Bakker pointed out that claims of vote rigging have been made ever since the first edition was held in 1956, but that none have ever been backed by hard evidence.

He also explained – a point also raised by Mr Attard – that juries are observed by independent auditors, which have never observed any wrongdoing.

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