Poland: Krajowe Eliminacje… how did we get here?

Ahead of Poland selecting their 2017 Eurovision entrant via Krajowe Eliminacje on Saturday, we have taken a brief look back at how Poland have selected their entries throughout their history and whether this has coincided with changes to their level of success in the contest.
This weekend, Poland will choose what will become their 20th entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Despite a strong debut in 1994, the central European country haven’t had too much to shout about during their Eurovision journey. Nevertheless, following a short break, their comeback since 2014 has started to show signs that Poland could have the potential to become a superpower in the Eurovision world. But before we get to that, let’s go back to where it all started…

To nie ja! Still Poland’s most successful entry… and it was nearly disqualified!

Poland made their debut in 1994, a year in which 7 countries made their debut in total. The former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia had broken up into several independent states, and all of them wanted their chance to take part in Europe’s most popular non-sporting event. TVP chose to internally select Edyta Górniak, an up and coming singer. This wasn’t to be Edyta’s first experience at a song contest. She placed third in the Baltic Song Contest hosted in Sweden a year earlier. She took her Eurovision entry To nie ja! to Dublin and placed second, one of the most successful debuts in Eurovision history. However it wasn’t all plain sailing. Poland could have found themselves disqualified just days before the contest…
During the dress rehearsal, in which the national juries cast their votes, Edyta performed the second half of her song in English. At the time, rules stated countries had to perform in one of their official languages. A quirk of the rule allowed countries to sing up to eight words in a non-official language, something Croatia had made use of the previous year and Germany were making use of in the same contest. However, Edyta performed many more than eight words in English and several national delegations believed she would receive an unfair advantage. Nevertheless, only six complained to the EBU asking for Poland’s disqualification. For the EBU to examine the situation, rules stated a majority of countries (so 13 in 1994) would have had to complained.

Internal selections continue to no further success

TVP continued to select their entries internally throughout the 1990s, but failed to score any top 10 finishes. By the end of the decade, the relegation rule in place was to relegate those countries with the lowest average score over the past five years. As Edyta’s 2nd place fell out of the five-year bracket following the 1999 contest which had been keeping Poland afloat, Poland were relegated in 2000. TVP tried another internal selection on their return in 2001, but finished in their lowest position yet. Piasek finished 20th in a field of 23 entries with just 11 points.

Poland’s first national final

For their return in 2003, TVP organised a national final for the first time. Interest in the national final, Piosenka dla Europy 2003, was extremely high. Some of Poland’s most popular artists took part and Ich Troje triumphed against 13 other competitors in an SMS vote. Due to public interest also being extremely high, it came to light that the SMS voting system had become overwhelmed and less than a quarter of the votes had been successfully registered before the show ended. Nevertheless, TVP confirmed afterwards that the results stayed the same once all of the SMS had filtered through hours later.
The new national final proved to be a success in terms of Eurovision placing. Ich Troje’s 7th place finish in Riga was Poland’s best finish since their debut in 1994. Encouraged by this, a renamed national final returned for 2004 and was the first use of the name we have today. Krajowe Eliminacje do Konkursu Piosenki Eurowizji 2004 contained a field of 15 entries. Televoting chose Blue Café’s Love Song to represent Poland in the Eurovision 2004 final after receiving automatic qualification through the newly introduced semi-finals as a result of Ich Troje’s high finish. However, Blue Café were not as successful and finished in 17th place in Istanbul. The band had previously competed in the 2003 national final, finishing 3rd.

Inconsistent selection formats, inconsistent results

TVP switched back to an internal selection following their poor showing in 2004. 63 songs were reportedly submitted to TVP and the broadcaster chose Ivan & Delfin to represent Poland in 2005. However, the duo failed to qualify for the final. Poland switched back to a national final for 2006, but introduced a jury vote for the first time. Ich Troje was one of only two established artists to enter the selection and the band were victorious again. When the televotes and jury votes were combined Ich Troje were tied with Katarzyna Cerekwicka. However the televote took precedence and Ich Troje represented Poland for the second time in the space of four contests. Nevertheless, it was another near miss for Poland at Eurovision as they finished 11th in the semi-final for the second consecutive year. Of course, only the top 10 qualify.
Poland returned to a televote-only national final in 2007. The Jet Set were selected, beating Hania Stach by just 267 televotes. It’s notable that The Jet Set won this national final with 14,123 votes. In 2004, Blue Café needed 57,125 votes to win their national final. Interest in Eurovision was deterioriating amongst the Polish public. The Jet Set’s non-qualification at Eurovision did nothing to help increase interest either.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Piosenka dla Europy 2008 was held to select Poland’s next Eurovision entry, and the jury vote returned once again. Isis Gee was the clear winner, taking top points from both the televote and the jury. Her success continued at Eurovision as she qualified Poland to the final for the first time since 2004. Even though she only finished 24th in the final, it was a glimpse of hope for Poland that things were turning around. However, TVP didn’t see it this way. They considered withdrawal unless the voting system was altered for 2009. Once the EBU announced the re-introduction of a jury vote, TVP confirmed their participation.

TVP kept an identical selection format for 2009, albeit with 10 artists this time instead of 12. Lidia Kopania was another clear winner, winning the televote and finishing 2nd in the jury vote. However, she couldn’t match Isis’ finish at Eurovision. I Don’t Wanna Leave finished 12th in the semi-final in Moscow and failed to progress to the final.

Krajowe Eliminacje returns but fortunes fail to turn around

TVP made some changes to their selection format in 2010. Rebranded as Krajowe Eliminacje, the finalists were made up of a mixture of invited artists and wildcard entries. A wildcard entry was victorious in the competition decided by 100% televoting. Marcin Mroziński was a clear winner with almost 34% of the vote in a field of 10. Nevertheless, a 13th place finish in his semi-final in Oslo meant that Legenda did not make the final.
The format stayed for 2011, although a specially chosen board of panellists was to pick all of the finalists. Magdalena Tul was a dominant winner, scoring more than 44% of the televote in a field of 10. Nevertheless, her national final success certainly didn’t translate into Eurovision success. Jestem finished last in a field of 19 in the first semi-final in Düsseldorf.

TVP withdraw from the contest

With just one Eurovision qualification in their past seven appearances, TVP announced Poland would withdraw from the contest in 2012. The broadcaster cited their responsibility of hosting Euro 2012 with Ukraine as a major factor. However, TVP chose not to return in 2013 either citing the presence of so-called “neighbourly voting” and “a lack of music focus”.
The broadcaster did decide to return in 2014, with Polish media stating that a reduction in participation fees by the EBU aiding the comeback. In their first internal selection since 2005, Donatan and Cleo were selected to represent Poland with My Słowianie – We Are Slavic, a song that had already a major hit in the country. Their 14th place finish at the Eurovision final became Poland’s best Eurovision finish since 2003. The performance has gone on to become one of the most memorable in Eurovision history with the suggestive nature of the performance which also mocked Polish stereotypes.

Monika Kuszyńska was internally selected in 2015 and secured Poland a second consecutive qualification for the first time in their Eurovision history. Interest amongst the Polish public had reignited since their comeback and TVP responded by hosting a national selection in 2016.

Krajowe Eliminacje as we know it today

Krajowe Eliminacje returned in 2016, maintaining it’s 100% televote method of voting as in 2010 and 2011. The selection became arguably the most high profile of the season amongst Eurovision fans and received massive interest from the Polish public. After many years of requests from Polish Eurovision fans, Edyta Górniak attempted to represent her country once again. Nevertheless, she faced stiff competition from Poland’s top popstar Margaret who received immense hype for her entry Cool Me Down. The hype was so immense that it results in Poland zooming to the top of bookmakers’ Eurovision odds in anticipation of her victory.
However, both Margaret and Edyta missed out, finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. Michał Szpak was victorious with his ballad Color of Your Life. He went on to surprise everyone with his success in Stockholm. His 8th place finish included a 3rd place finish in the televoting. It became Poland’s 3rd entry to reach the top 10. Encouraged by arguably their best run of Eurovision finishes since they debuted, TVP announced Krajowe Eliminacje would return in 2017.

Just a couple of days to go…

Krajowe Eliminacje 2017 is taking place on February 18th and, in a change of format, will include 50% jury voting alongside the televote. You can listen to all of the contenders by reading our article on the national final here. TVP will be hoping that the selected entry can give Poland their fourth consecutive qualification since their 2014 comeback. That would be quite the turnaround!
Editor’s Note: Please do let us know if you know of any further information regarding the Polish selection processes that we were unable to mention. Information at times is scarce so we would appreciate any assistance to help fill in the missing pieces! Feel free to comment below or get in touch via the contact form.

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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