The Swedish Newspaper Skånska Dagbladet has published an article over the weekend stating that Macedonia, Azerbaijan and another Southern European country are involved in trying to rig the jury vote. A delegation member has come forward anonymously to the paper and explained what they have seen happening.
They say that they were contacted by a representative of the Macedonian delegation during the week before the semi-finals, who put forward the idea that the countries would “exchange votes” with each other. The two were both at work in an office near Malmö Arena. The delegation member says that the followig happened:
Person A started the conversation by saying , “I need to talk to you about a deal we could do to bring us both closer to the finale,” said the anonymous source.
The agreement was that the countries’ juries would agree to give each other 10 points in the [semi-final] voting. The delegation member than says that they were amazed to have had an open offer from a delegation member who clearly said they wanted to exchange votes. They declined the offer.
The second allegation relates to Azerbaijan. The delegation member says that over a coffee a member of the Azerbaijani delegation said they would pay them enough money to “live for a year” if they voted to Azerbaijan, they openly admitted that they were buying votes from other countries.
The final allegation relates to a Southern European country that has not be named. The member of the delegation says that a member of the other delegation tried to buy votes not with money but with positive PR for the delegation members entrant. This offer was also refused by the delegate.
This is not the first time that the contest has come under the allegations of having votes being bought. The Swedish Tabloid Aftonbladet has said that many countries have been hiring call centres to get votes. Whilst the Lithuanian paper 15min.lt showed a video showing men in Vilnius, Lithuania paying people to vote for Azerbaijan through prepaid sim cards.
In response to these allegations Skånska Dagbladet asked all of those accussed for responses and got the following replies:
The Macedonian Head of Delegation Ljupcho Mirkovski said that:
My advice to you is to find something interesting to post than this, because lies are something that may later become a case for an international court
He also went on to say:
This is not the first time that this person is trying to smear the Macedonian delegation
The paper also asked for a response from the Southern European countries delegation. They were not given a response in a phone conversation, however they did get a response from their attorney saying that:
I have been instructed to inform you that all allegations that someone from the ***** delegation” tried to buy votes behind the scene” is not only completely false , but also, even worse , defamatory.
Azerbaijan are yet to make a comment or reply to the paper.
Sieste Bakker who is a member of the EBU responded to the allegations saying that:
Rumors alike these have been going around basically since 1956, and never has any hard evidence been given by any Head of Delegation that would proof this is happening. We have strong measures in place to assure a fair vote:
– We have an independent notary present in every country while the jury comes together to vote, to assure that procedures are correctly being followed. They submit a signed statement to us along with the result
– Every juror signs a declaration that states the will vote independently, before they even start their judging
– We send, randomly, independent PricewaterhouseCoopers observers to broadcasters every year, as an extra check. They show up shortly before the broadcast to follow the work of the jury. They have never observed any wrongdoing
Moreover, the following is important to take into consideration:
– We have never been approached by any jury member (5 people in nearly 40 countries, since 2009, that makes a total of some 1000 people across Europe) that claims to have been put under pressure to vote a certain way- Tired of unfunded speculations, we have asked our PricewaterhouseCoopers observer to do interviews with over 10 Heads of Delegation in Malmö this year, and offered all other Heads of Delegation to actively approach him or the EBU in case they want to report any wrongdoing, either personally or anonymously. If this had raised solid evidence that this is happening, we would have taken action
Every year, we do as much as we can to assure a fair jury result, so far we believe with success. There are always people who like to question the outcome of a competition, and if they have evidence of that, we would be the first ones to act.”
In response to questions about why there has been no response to the Lithuanian papers evidence of vote rigging he said that:
The Lithuanian video case is still being investigated. Why does it take so long? Simple: Summer in Europe. Everyone is out of office, so things move slowly. Our priority is to get reliable information, and to take decisions based on facts, not on rumors. That’s in the best interest of the contest we all love. The recent 12points article, which is a re-write of the story in today’s Skånska Dagbladet, is – again! – only rumors and gossip, but no evidence. We’ve said it all along: provide us with evidence and we will act.