Monday, 20 May 2013

Is Merkel to blame for Germany's Eurovision loss?

German commentators were wringing their hands on Sunday over the country’s disappointing finish at the Eurovision final Saturday night. The country came 21st out of the 26 countries performing, despite fielding well-known dance act Cascada with a radio-friendly song which the German media had predicted could possibly win.

Others in Germany had, before the final, predicted the opposite – that the high level of anti-German feeling in Europe today over the austerity regimes imposed by Angela Merkel would make it impossible for Germany to win even if they fielded the greatest song eversung by mankind.

Out of the 39 countries voting, 34 refused to give Germany any points at all. Austria, Switzerland, Israel and Albania were the only ones to award the country points, along with bailed-out Spain - which came as a surprise (but could be accounted for by the large amount of German pensioners living in Spain for retirement). Germany received a humiliating score of just 18 points, compared to 281 points for Denmark's winning entry.

The coordinator for Germany’s ARD TV network told German media on Sunday, "There's obviously a political situation to keep in mind - I don't want to say 'this was 18 points for Angela Merkel', but we all have to be aware that it wasn't just Cascada up there on stage, but all of Germany."

If that is the case, then it looks like ‘all of Germany’ (or more specifically, Angela Merkel) was delivered a rejection Saturday night. It’s a far cry from the jubilant and honoured mood experienced by Germany in 2010 when they won with ‘Satellite’ by Lena Meyer-Landrut. At that point the country had only recently signed off on the first Greek bailout, something that was massively unpopular within Germany. That year’s Eurovision win seemed like a sign that there was still good will toward Germany in Europe, which reassured many Germans.

Flash forward three years later. The EU and IMF, have now overseen six bailouts on a German design, and imposed harsh austerity regimes on the recipient countries. Those austerity policies have now had three years to bear fruit, and the results have often not been pretty. Germany is in a different position today than it was three years ago.

That being said, despite having a relatively good song, Cascada's performance was not great. For one thing, to a lot of people the song sounded very similar to last year’s winner by Sweden, ‘Euphoria’ – even leading some to accuse Cascada of “plagiarising” the Swedish song. Personally I think that’s a bit of a stretch – the German song stood on its own merits. But the primary problem was a lacklustre performance by Cascada’s Natlie Horler and an unimaginative staging that had her just standing on a dumpy-looking platform. It didn’t exactly match the jubilant nature of the song.

That being said, the song probably didn’t deserve to come as far down as it did – particularly since Cascada is known throughout Europe. The German commentators are probably overreacting by saying the low finish is the result of anti-austerity sentiment, but even the fact that it was brought up shows the kinds of issues that are swimming in the collective German psyche right now. On Sunday, one German news programme asked a Eurovision expert, "Is it that people just don't like us?"

"There's some truth to that," he said.

Of course eurovision vorters are fickle and there can be all kinds of explanations for why countries perform poorly. Ireland's entry was also supposed to perform well but ended up finishing dead last - a truly shocking result considering Ireland usually does very well and has won the contest more times than any other country. The Irish take Eurovision very seriously and the Sunday papers in Dublin were incredulous at the result. More than one Irish newspaper was asking if some of the anti-German resentment had rubbed off on them, since Merkel is always praising Ireland as the (only) country which has done well by implementing drastic austerity reforms and now sees signs of improvement in the economy. Did other countries punish Ireland for being Merkel's favourite of the PIGS?

Germany wasn’t the only one fretting about the voting result. News came today that the Azerbaijan government is investigating why Russia received 0 points from the country. Russia gave Azerbaijan its top score of 12 points. The head of the country’s state broadcaster said he believes the result may be fraudulent because he knows many people who text voted for Russia. The result is embarrassing for the Azerbaijan government, given that they strive for good relations with Moscow. It is not the first time the government has gotten involved in Eurovision voting investigations - in 2009 the police interviewed people who had voted for Azerbaijan's neighbour Armenia, with whom it is still in a state of war.

In the end, the winner of this year’s contest was Denmark, which will lead to the amusing result that the contest will move only 20 minutes across the Oresund bridge. This year’s contest was hosted in Malmo, Sweden, which in some ways is actually a sort of suburb of Copenhagen.

1 comment:

Captain Kid said...

I would like to bash Merkel for anything, but this result simply happened due to the fact that Cascada plagiarised. The song was appaling. Everyone in Germany knew that; it was only the broadcasting channel that was taken by surprise.