Recently, John Demanuele the Vice Chairman of the MaltaSong Board openly accused some Eurovision Song Contest delegations of trying to exchange votes in 2007 to alter the Song Contest's outcome according to online reports. Robert Abela the Chairman of the MaltaSong Board confirmed many of the reports' details, but strongly denied the allegations of attempted vote rigging in an email to esctoday.com. Many observers are asking for a change to the voting system after the 2007 Contest, but this small controversy in Malta raises the question if a jury system would be considered more neutral. It has never been proven that "blocs" of countries exchanged votes "in the corridors" under the old jury system though such rumours have always followed the Contest. Mr. Abela said he believes that vote exchanges happened in the past, but televoting put a stop to the practice.
During a discussion programme on Maltese Smash TV, John Demanuele the Vice Chairman of the MaltaSong Board and Assistant Head of Delegation (HoD) declared that they were approached by members of the Georgian delegation who wanted to negotiate an exchange of points. According to online newspaper maltastar.com, Robert Abela the HoD and Chairman of the MaltaSong Board corrected his colleague on another broadcast of the programme stating, “Maybe John Demanuele may have been slightly mistaken. Georgia contacted us and asked us, ‘what do you do to acquire votes?’ We explained to them what promotions we make, through Internet and through touring other countries." According to maltastar.com, Mr. Abela said that he told the Georgian delegates that Malta relies on televoting because he "could see where Georgia was trying to get to". But, the Maltese HoD told esctoday.com that this had nothing to do with an exchange of points.
"I would like to make it very clear that Georgia never attempted to exchange any votes with us," MaltaSong chairman wrote in an email to esctoday.com. He did confirm, "We ... told them that our country always used televoting and that we are very strict with this." Repeating that the discussion was only about promotion he continued, "We where discussing how we could promote our song in their country." He also said that Demanuele was not a part of this conversation; the HoD told his assistant about it later.
The very professional and well-prepared Georgian delegation knew that the televoting system used throughout the contest should make vote exchanges impossible so it's unclear why anyone suggested otherwise. " R egarding all possible influences on voting I'm not aware of that stuff at all, and I'm sure nobody in our delegation is either," the Georgian HoD Ivane Tarkhnishvili said to esctoday.com.
"We've tried to efficiently allocate resources on both directions - production and promotion, and there were discussions about organizing a few promo tours in different countries, including Malta, as well to welcome other countries for promotion in Georgia. This whole past experience would serve as a good guide for Georgia's preparation for next ESC," Mr. Tarkhnishvili said.
Albania's Five Points
Demanuela also made the surprising claim on the same television program that something was not right with the Albanian vote (as reported by maltastar.com). "We knew that Albania was going to give us five points. And they did. Now in this country votes are decided through televoting. So how can we believe that they really use televoting? I don’t believe it,” he said. Albania actually did use their backup jury to award their points. However, when esctoday.com contacted Demanuele for clarification he responded, "What I can say is that we had read in a newspaper that it was rumoured that a country would be giving 5 points to Malta in the Semi- Finals. Following the publication of the official semi-final voting results on Sunday it transpired that one country (Albania) had indeed given 5 points to Malta. We therefore came to the conclusion that the country referred to in the newspaper was Albania." One now wonders if any country that had awarded 5 points to Malta would have come under fire from Demanuele.
Is televoting more transparent?
Svante Stockselius, the Executive Director of the Eurovision Broadcasting Union (EBU) who oversaw the switch to televoting has angered some fans who want a return to the jury system. However, these stories from Malta also point out the jury system is open to criticism if not abuse. Stockselius said before the 2006 contest, " Televoting is 100% democratic, no experts, juries, just the viewers. No accusations of votes being exchanged in corridors. It is transparent, no way to cheat. It is hard to convince an entire block to vote in one way." Malta's HoD Robert Abela seems to agree. Though vote rigging between juries has never been proven, maltastar.com reports that Abela believes that it took place. "Otherwise the EBU would not have stopped the voting by jury," he said. "Televoting does not permit us to promise any votes. If I cannot give points, I cannot make any promises with them other countries .”
"As to what used to happen in the past with jury voting, I was never involved during this time," Mr. Abela said to esctoday.com "But in my opinion, I believe ... since the EBU decided to go for 100% televoting that this was done for a valid reason."