The democracy of Eurovision


Eurovision 2008
Eurovision is an amazing spectacle. It brings together all of the countries that belong to the European Broadcasting Union – each of which enters and performs an original pop song. Then, everyone votes and the winner is announced at the end of the broadcast. Sounds like it’s just another reality TV show? Eurovision has been going on since 1956.

I believe that representational democracy can learn a lot from Eurovision.

If you’re not familiar with the complicated Eurovision voting system, it’s based on a Borda count. After all the countries have sung their songs, the Eurovision viewers have voted (since 1998) by calling in. Each country assigns the points accordingly:

  1. 12 points (first place)
  2. 10 points (second place)
  3. 8 points (third place)
  4. 7 points (fourth place)
  5. 6 points (fifth place)
  6. 5 points (sixth place)
  7. 4 points (seventh place)
  8. 3 points (eighth place)
  9. 2 points (ninth place)
  10. 1 point (tenth place)

Now, with 30 entries, more than half of the entries get zero points. Also, you can’t vote for your own country. So, this year’s Eurovision saw politically motivated voting and organized blocks like never before.

It made me think that this could be applied to a new democratic system. I’m not a fan of first-past-the-post, and (as a resident of British Columbia) hearing an election already decided for you when the news blackout lifts, well, sucks.

My argument is that this process could make the political process more interesting – and harder to predict. It combines a one-person-one vote with constituencies with a ranking system. Add in sequins, pop songs, shiny suits, and you have a captivated electorate.

Imagine you have one vote. You can’t vote for any of the people in your riding – just one vote for one candidate in one of the other ridings. Your vote is combined with everyone else in your riding and the candidates are voted on. Then, a local celebrity in formal wear announces how the points from your riding are distributed to the whole country or province.


  • Increased election-night viewership
  • Messes with pollsters
  • More awareness of ridings other than your own
  • Increased election-night sequins
  • Increased voter participation – possibly by SMS
  • Single broadcast across timezones – no black outs
  • Debate combined with voting for one-stop-voting

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