Sunday, 15 May 2011

Through the Eurovision Looking Glass: Would AV make a difference?

The international Eurovision Song Contest final took place this weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany and whilst for fans (125million were expected to tune in) it was a triumphant display of unity and talent bringing together divergent cultures through the medium of music. For others the contest will have passed by virtually unnoticed.



Azerbaijan's 'Running Scared', performed by Ell and Nicki, chalked up two hundred and twenty-one points to claim victory in the contest.

Let us look at the current system used. The forty-three participating countries each get to score the twenty five entries that have successfully made it through to the final. During the performance, viewers (known as "Televoters") in all participating countries can vote by making a telephone call for their favorite song or songs.  In order of preference the televoters choices are awarded twelve points to the most popular entry, ten points to the second most popular, then eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one points.

Professional juries in all participant countries vote as well. Just like the televoters, each jury in each country then gave twelve points to the most popular entry, ten points to the second most popular, then eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one points.

The televoting results and the jury results are then merged per country with each result counting for half the final preference listing and a spokesperson in country reads out the merged results, giving twelve points to the most popular entry, ten points to the second most popular, then eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one points.

The country with the highest number of points wins the Eurovision Song Contest.

Following on from the recent referendum in the United Kingdom on voting reform, the result of the Eurovision Song Contest provides a good opportunity to ask two quetions: What would have happened if the traditional method had not been used, what if a different voting system had been in place? Would it have made any difference?

If AV had been used the the result would have seen Switzerland, Estonia, Russia, Serbia and Germany initially eliminated as they got no first preference votes together with Greece, the United Kingdom, Moldova, Austria, Iceland, Finland and Hungary who all recieved only one first preference vote each. These seven votes would then be redistributed between the remaining contestants. Azerbaijan and Ukraine both picking up 1 vote, Ireland picking up 2 votes and Sweden 3 votes more. No one has got a majority (22 votes) so at the end of round two Slovenia, France, Romaia, Lithuania and Spain are eliminated and their ballots redistrubuted.

So at the beginning of the third round Azerbaijan & Italy are both on 4 votes and both pick up 3 votes each, Sweden on 5 picks up 1 vote, Ukraine on 4 picks up 2 votes, Denmark and Bosnia & Herzegovina don't get any more votes and stay on 3 and 5 respectively. Ireland on 5 picks up 1 vote and Georgia remain on 3.

At the end of round three Denmark and Georgia, both on 3 votes each, are eleiminated. Azerbaijan is on 7, Italy is on 7, Sweden is on 6, Ukraine is on 6, Bosnia & Herzegovina is on 5 and Ireland is on 6.

In the fourth round of voting the six redistrubuted ballots are split 2 each to Azerbaijan and Italy and 1 each to Sweden and Ukraine. Azerbaijan and Italy now both have 9, Sweden and Ukraine have 7, Ireland 6 and Bosnia & Herzegovina 5 so they are eleiminated. Still no one has 22 votes.

In the fifth round Azerbaijan and Italy both pick up 1 vote each moving into double figures with 10 votes each, Sweden stays on 7 votes, Ukraine gains 3 votes and moves to a total of 10 votes whilst Ireland stay on 6 and are therefore eliminated.

In round six Azerbaijan picks up 1 vote moving to 11 votes, Italy picks up 3 votes to 13 votes, Sweden picks up two and Ukraine stays on 10. Sweden is on 9 and is eleiminated.

In the seventh round of voting Azerbaijan picks up 5 votes, Italy and Ukraine 1 each and two are ballots are discarded, meaning that to win a contestant needs 21 votes.

In the final round of voting the Ukraine is eliminated with 11 ballots whilst Azerbaijan goes in with 16 and Italy on 14. Two ballots are discarded as Azerbaijan picks up 4 votes and Italy 5. Leaving the final result Azerbaijan 20, Italy 19. Meaning that Azerbaijan wins with 51.28% of the votes in the eighth round.

Had the result on Saturday evening been a simple First-Past-The-Post election then Bosnia & Herzegovina would have won the competition having recieved the highest number of 'twelve' votes (5). Italy would have been second (4), Azerbaijan, Denmark, Ireland and Georgia in joint third (3 each).
 
Hopefully this little exercise just proves that different systems can produce very different results

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