XTRA Debate: Did diaspora die at Eurovision 2018?

For decades, the voting of the Eurovision Song Contest has led to a sense of bemusement. A few pointed statements by national commentators about Sweden and Norway being Nordic neighbours. A comment about Greece and Cyprus exchanging 12s. Fans able to predict where a portion of the points go before the voting lines have even opened. For years, this was put down to ‘political’ ‘bloc’ or more recently, ‘diaspora’ voting. While the first two terms can be problematic, ‘diaspora voting’ can reflect migration movements voting for famous or well-known acts on the Eurovision stage.

However, looking at the 2018 contest this theory does not seem to be the case. The fact the contest is set to be hosted in Israel, rather than Cyprus proves this. So, was 2018 the year diaspora in the televote died?

Defining diaspora

First of all, the notion of diaspora should be fleshed out slightly. Diaspora, or a group of people. However, in a Eurovision context, the effects of diaspora seems to be heightened when countries enter huge or well-known domestic stars that acts as an incentive for people to pick up the phone. Though it is crude to suggest act X only did well because of diaspora support, there is a level of support usually can be banked on.

An interesting phenomenon appears to be that of transference. This is where diaspora support is seemingly absorbed by one country due to the absence of another failing to qualify. This could be due to a country getting a favourable draw in a particular semi-final, or that other countries failed to qualify for the final.

Secret to success? 

A slightly older example of this is the UK in 2008. In the semi final, they gave 12 points to Cyprus (a song entirely in Greek!) and Greece in the final. 

Kalomira’s Secret Combination came third scoring points from 36 out of 41 countries. Clearly, there was a wide appeal for the song. However, the seemingly instant transference of a high mark suggest that – at least to some degree – there was a Greek diaspora cheering Kalomira on from sofas and Eurovision parties across the UK! 

Have ESCXTRA just discovered what the ‘Secret Combination’ was after all these years? 

Of course, it goes without saying that the voting split in 2016 has changed how we assess this issue. With the televote and jury being totally untethered from one another – gone is the time that the jury can ‘cancel out’ the televote (or vice Versa). 

Of course, it goes without saying that the voting split in 2016 has changed how we assess this issue. With the televote and jury being totally untethered from one another – gone is the time that the jury can ‘cancel out’ the televote (or vice Versa). 

One of the biggest shocks of the 2018 semi-finals was huge Eurovision stalwarts with a previously untouched record – Romania and Russia – failing to qualify. For Russia this is particularly interesting, as theoretically the semi contained many countries who have strong historic voting patterns for Russia. Had we still been in a 100% televote era, Russia still would have failed to make it to Saturday night.

With the likes of Russia, Greece, Armenia and Romania knocked out in the semis – you would assume some of the strong diaspora would be displaced to similar countries like Moldova or Ukraine. Ukraine only came 7th. Moldova 8th.

The Fuego that fizzled out

Going into the final I was convinced Cyprus would win. Although I preferred ‘Fuego’ as a winner to ‘Toy’ – looking at the numbers it seemed like it was Eleni’s to lose (at least for the televote!). Why did I think that? Simple answer – Greece.

Ironically, it was Yianna Terzi’s song appealing to the Greek diaspora that led to Greece’s second non-qualification. Greece really should have qualified from that semi-final. With Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the UK, Macedonia, Albania who normally have a solid televote for Greece, for it to not qualify was huge. To me, I worked out that while Greece probably got a decent amount of support from the above nations (and maybe even a few more) – Eleni’s song and performance galvanised televoters. If she could light a fire under the audience to pick up the phone in the semi, she should be able to mimic that in the final. 

We now know that Eleni did indeed thrash the televote in the semi, with a 60 point lead on Netta and 30 point lead on Mikolas. However, in the final Netta won the televote with 64 points. The five sets of 12 points to Cyprus in the semi reduced to three. Evidently, the sizzling heat did not consolidate as much as a hard support as I presumed. Comparing the countries voting for Cyprus in the semi-final to Saturday night, the island nation actually had a net loss of -39 points! Surely, if traditional diaspora was alive and kicking ‘Fuego’ should have hoovered up some of the televoting support of Greece? 

So what do the others think? 


When I saw Oliver came up with this debate, I was excited to share my piece of mind when it comes to this topic. Like him, I felt there was a certain end of an era when it comes to diaspora.

Oliver rightly points out that, had diaspora been as alive as it was in the past, Cyprus should have gathered some more televoting points. They (sadly) didn’t. I was hoping for a case like 2011. In that year, Azerbaijan didn’t even win the semi. They scored a second place, right behind Greece. That entry, Watch My Dance, went on to become the worst scoring semi winner in a grand final, as it came seventh. Yet somehow, Azerbaijan took the victory on Saturday. To date, I still feel a lot of this was due to Turkey not qualifying.

As for this year, my thought has always been that diaspora might not be as visible, but they’d still push such countries into the final at most occasions. Just take a look at Greece in 2017. They barely qualified, but in my eyes, they wouldn’t have without diaspora. 

The fact that we now had a year where the most prolific diaspora countries (Romania, Russia, Greece and Armenia) all failed to qualify with less than mediocre songs, was a sign for me that the power of diaspora might be vanishing. Does it still exist? Absolutely. Does it have the power to make certain mediocre songs qualifiers? Perhaps not.

Previous XTRA Debates:

What are your thoughts ? Has diaspora vanished for good? Is this just a temporary, isolated blip? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on social media at @ESCXTRA!

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