Azerbaijan scoops unexpected Eurovision win just days after MEPs bemoan human rights abuses
Sunday, 15 May 2011
The Eurovision Song Contest will next year be heading east to Baku, Azerbaijan as Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, singing as Ell/Nikki, were the surprise winners of the 56th competition and crowned before 35,000 in the Fortuna Düsseldorf Arena, Germany.
The eastern country only joined the contest in 2008, but after a series of strong entries in previous years it finally clinched the title with a song called ‘Running Scared’ accumulating 221 points awarded by countries across Europe, although the only Western European country to award the maximum 12 points was Malta.
Speaking in the Parliament’s debate on the matter at the recent plenary session in Strasbourg, South West MEP Graham Watson argued the country’s participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy should be made conditional on democratic reform. “The media in Azerbaijan is not free, its elections are not fair, its people are subjected to arbitrary and sometimes violent treatment by officials,” he said. “Peaceful protests in recent weeks have met with repression more common to an Arab than to a European country.”
The song, shown below, peaked at number 57 in the Slovakian music charts and tells the story of a man and woman frightened by their mutual obsession, frightened that because the moments they share are so perfect that the simple act of breathing could make it all fall apart.
The UK had not won Eurovision since 1997 when Katrina and the Waves triumphed with 'Love Shine a Light', and although were expected to do well with the newly reformed band Blue as this year’s entrants they did not win. However, they did notch up 100 points (a tenfold improvement on the measly 10 points last year) and at one early stage during the voting process was briefly atop of the results table courtesy of two high scores from Italy and Bulgaria. But it still turned out to be an embarrassment as they finished behind Ireland's entry, the novelty X Factor twins Jedward, who finished eighth.
Remaining on the subject of novelty acts, kudos must be awarded to the Moldovan entry by a group called Zdob şi Zdub, which in true Eurovision traditions miraculously manage to include a woman dressed as a fairy on a unicycle and digital gnomes flying across the stage's LED screen, reportedly the largest in the world, oh and pointed cone hats (see video below).
While the Azerbaijani song was my favourite of the night, it was a disappointment that all but four songs on the night were performed in English instead of the respective national languages (exceptions were pre-contest favourite France, Greece, Spain and Serbia). Since the contest’s birth, the original rules stated that songs had to be performed in the national language but this requirement was scraped in 1999, which has resulted in the situation today wherein the majority of the songs are in some form of simplified English. Entries that highlighted the distinctive cultural identities of each country – which used to make the contest such a delight to watch - are now few and far between, and for me this is a shame.
But with the contest heading eastwards next year to pastures new, it should certainly make for an interesting next edition.
Hailing from the truly beautiful South West region of the UK, Andrew now works in Brussels and is a UK passport holder, European citizen, and a twice employee at the European Parliament.
While the EU in its current form is far from perfect, he is nonetheless firmly of the belief that the UK's prosperity and place in the world is best served as a member state and not as an isolated bystander.
Since October 2009, this blog seeks to document the work that our region's MEPs do for us in Brussels. As such, predictably, it rarely features UKIP.