Thursday, February 18, 2010

February is the Month for Election Fraud in Armenia… Eurovision Armenia 2010 Song Contest Results Flawed

The talent I manage, Nick Egibyan, had the privilege to compete among the 9 contests in the Eurovision preliminary round in Yerevan to see who will represent Armenia in Oslo, Norway this May, in the Eurovision 2010 song contest.

Prior to our entering the contest, we had been informed from sources in the music industry that Eva Rivas of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, was going to represent Armenia. From this information, we were prepared not to win, though we knew Nick had a much better song than Eva, but figured at very least that this was a great opportunity for Nick to get exposure on national television.

During a live television appearance on the 12th (Friday), where the contestants drew numbers to determine the order which they would perform in the contest, Nick wore a shirt that we made literally minutes before arriving to the station (the paint was still wet when we got there), that read This last minute work happened only because we were informed only hours earlier that we were to be at the station for the selection process on live television.

For the most part, the whole process of Eurovision was information at the last minute and in some cases if you did not ask, you were not informed. I would think that with the technology we have today, they would have had an internet site that the contestants could log into and find answers to what is going on. For the most part the rule of the organizers was if you did not ask, you would not find out and in some cases what they told you was not accurate.

During the number selection, the contestants were informed that a group of drummers on stage each had a small purse attached to their drum. Inside each purse was a number from 1 to 9. When the contestant was called up, they were to go to a drum, hit it and then remove the purse to see which number is inside. Nick was sitting next to Eva Rivas, who he spoke to and in their conversation discovered which drum she was going to pick (it was as if she was instructed which one to pick), to which once she told him, became silent. Eva was the second contestant to be called up, as they were calling the contestants to the stage based on the title of their song in English alphabetical order. Eva’s selected purse contained number 9, the ideal passion for any contestant. Also you would think that being that we are in Armenia, Armenian alphabetical order should have been applied, and/or the numbers should have been mixed in a bowl and then attached to the drums (which they were not).

At the end of the show, I walked up to one of the organizers, Diana, to ask when we should arrive at the Opera for rehearsals and how much stage time will we get? She told me that we should come at 10 o’clock and we would be given 30 minutes.

The next morning we showed up to the Opera at 10 a.m., ready to rehearse and found stage hands setting up the stage. On the other side of the stage curtain, we could hear the national orchestra rehearsing. Could we have come 12 hours early? I made a call to another contestant and learned that they had been told to come at 6 p.m. Poor Nick had only slept a couple of hours the night before since we did not leave the station until after midnight and then rushed down to the Opera to rehearse that morning with his dancers only to learn that Diana had misinformed us as to the time altogether. If she meant to say 10 p.m., then we would have been late by 4 hours and in fact would have missed our call to the stage.

The night rehearsal at the opera was amazing. Well maybe not that amazing. The monitors they had set up on the stage so the artists could hear themselves were really bad. The acoustics in the opera were not designed for solo singers of rock or R&B. When Nick got up on stage, he could not hear himself and what you could hear most was bass, lots of bass.

When we showed up, Emmy and Mihran had already taken the stage time wise, as they had a nice set with tables, DJ station and a chandler hanging. I’m not sure how long it took for them to set the stage, but Emmy and Mihran were themselves on stage practicing for 18 minutes, so I’m sure they had at least 30 minutes in all.

Contestant number 5, David, had the stage for 18 minutes in all and was having problems singing because of the monitors and him not hearing his voice.

When Nick went on stage as I said above we were dealing with the monitors not working well. After 8 minutes of stage time the director wanted to know if we were done? Nick said no, at least one more time please. In all we had a little more than 12 minutes of stage time. The big problem was the monitors and Nick not being able to hear himself. We decided that if he was going to be able to sing we needed wireless monitors for Nick to wear.

Next was Maria Kizirian, who had 14 minutes on stage to practice before the director thanked her. She also had problems with the monitors and was not able to sing on key. Her dancers were also not in sync, but considering she only arrived in Armenia a few days earlier, they had not had much time to practice and hopefully would get their moves down by show time.

Razmik Amyan, contestant number, 8 had a full 30 minutes of stage time. Razmik and his dancers had their act together and if their song, which I did not care for too much since it reminded me of music I heard in Dubai, is what the Europeans are looking for, then I believe that he could in fact take first place in Oslo since there is a chance his amazing voice, will get the Muslim and Arab vote along with the Armenian vote of support, not to mention others who like the Arab style of his love song. I’ve known Razmik since way before he was deemed top singer and as a person, he is very likable. This whole combination of who Razmik is spells victory in a fair contest.

During Eva Rivas’s rehearsal we stayed for 47 minutes of her stage time and left behind someone to see how long it would go on for? The person we I left behind stayed another 30 minutes before she left, since it was getting late. I later learned that the back entrance to the opera was closed at 1:30 a.m., over 2 hours after we left. So at very least Eva had 77 minutes of stage time, over an hour more than most contestants had. What I found kind of interesting was during her stage time, she not only sang “Apricot Stone” but also Sayat Nova’s “Tamam Ashkharh,” which is what she sang after announcing her the winner. From what we had seen up until this time, it looked as if the three top acts has been picked and were given extra attention from the director Hrant Keshishyan.

With taking all I’ve stated above, could this election have really been decided long ago? It sounds so much like the Presidential elections we have had many times in Armenia, where one can buy votes and vote more than one. In the case of Eurovision Armenia, each cell phone could cast 20 votes at the cost of a little less than $1.

As a side note, Lys Assia, the winner of the first ever Eurovision Song Contest, in 1956, was the guest of the Eva camp. I can’t say this for sure, but when Eva showed up to the Opeara for Saturday’s rehearsal, Mrs. Assia was with her group and others later told me that Eva’s sponsor arranged for Mrs. Assia to be there. Mrs. Assia opened the contest and then sang a couple of songs at the end.

I’ll write more later, as right now I’m trying to digest what happened this last week. I can say that Sunday’s rehearsal was more revealing than Saturday’s.


16.02.2010 16:51 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Intermob LTD, sms service provider at Armenian national final for Eurovision 2010, will release a report on sms voting within 2 days, Intermob LTD representative told PanARMENIAN.Net reporter.

Meanwhile, Public Television of Armenia issued a statement concerning complaints filed in connection with technical difficulties experienced during sms voting. "Armenia 1 TV along with 3 mobile operators started investigation of the issue. Public Television of Armenia is ready to provide voting results to all interested parties," the statement said.

Armenian entry for the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest was selected in a national final Sunday, February 14. The winner, Eva Rivas, was picked by a combined vote of the TV public (SMS voting) and an expert jury.

13:16 ~U 16.02.10

Apparently, it's not only Emmy and Mihran (and their agent) who are disgruntled with the results of the final selection for Armenia's entry in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest.

Armen Movsisyan, representing Razmik Amyan, also a contender for the Armenian entry in this year's Eurovision, told today that he, too, is not content with the results of SMS voting.

While speaking to, Movsisyan said that he believes that numerous text messages were not counted as they were blocked, though the senders were charged for those messages. According to Movsisyan, this is what Razmik Amyan's fans have said.

In an attempt to back up his claim, Movsisyan said that some 12,000 people were present at Amyan's last concert. He also said that voting by SMS is a meaningless measure, for which money is being spent.

Nevertheless, Razmik Amyan's producer said that they're not going to organize any protests - nor are they going to appeal the results.

"Razmik Amyan will never [again] take part in Eurovision's preliminary round; however, if asked to do so, he will take part in Eurovision [meaning, if he were asked to represent Armenia]," concluded Movsisyan.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Foul Play Alleged In Armenia Eurovision Voting

Music fans in Armenia are up in arms about what they claim was a rigged vote to nominate a singer for this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Nine of Armenia's top musical acts were in full voice on February 14, with Eva Rivas being named Armenia's 2010 entry to Eurovision, the annual pan-European singing competition.

But many fans have alleged that foul play was involved as thousands of text message votes for Rivas's top competitor never went through.

Born Valeria Tsaturyan, the Russian-Armenian songstress Rivas won the competition for the prized spot with her English-language song "Apricot Stone."

The 22-year-old native of Rostov-na-Donu in southern Russia beat out her closest competitors, pop-rap duo Emmy & Mihran.

That, at least, is what officials are saying.

But even before the results of the competition were announced, fans of Emmy & Mihran were claiming that their text message votes for the pair had failed to go through.

Vartan Grigorian, a representative of the PR group representing Emmy & Mihran, claimed that 5,000 SMS votes had already been registered for Rivas just 30 seconds after the announcement that voting was open to the public.

At that point, he told RFE/RL's Armenian Service, the server promptly went down -- with Emmy & Mihran holding just 1,400 votes.

Armenian public television, which organized the contest, followed up on pledges to investigate. It acknowledged late on February 15 that over 30,000 texted votes had not been counted -- but said that even so, Eva Rivas still came out on top by a wide margin. They said Emmy & Mirhan came in third, behind another singer, Razmik Amyan.

The Emmy & Mirhan camp says they do not believe the figures and will mount a challenge in court.

Some fans have alleged that Rivas's win was a foregone conclusion, given the heavy support that she enjoyed from a powerful diaspora-led production team in Moscow.

"The problem is not with Eva Rivas's persona, but with people who stand behind her," said one disgruntled voter.

Emmy and her partner Mihran, who has formerly worked as a backup dancer for Madonna, sang an English-language song entitled "Hey."

When Rivas was declared the winner, the duo quickly bowed and left the stage.

Ties In High Places

At a press conference following the competition at Yerevan's Opera Theater, Rivas's Moscow-based producer, Valery Saharian, brushed aside the allegations of foul play.

"One should also be able to accept a defeat in a dignified manner," the producer told RFE/RL's Armenian Service from Moscow.

A jury vote was held alongside the telephone-based public voting for Armenia's Eurovision nominee. The members of the jury were appointed by Armenia's Culture Ministry.

Each of the votes was given equal weight in determining the winner.

Armenian public television said that the jury had given the edge to Emmy & Mihran, but maintained that the public portion of the vote sealed Rivas's victory.

Rivas, an Angelina Jolie lookalike with waist-length hair, is sponsored by Samuel Karapetyan, an influential businessman. He is the brother of Karen Karapetyan, the chief of staff of the Armenian president.

Rivas is not the only Armenian Eurovision representative with ties to high places.

The female singer Sirusho, who was announced as the country's Eurovision representative in 2008 without a selection competition, has since married the son of Armenia's former president, Robert Kocharian.

And the Armenian controversies come alongside other recent Eurovision-related controversies in the region.

Last year, Azerbaijani citizens who had voted for the Armenian song in the Eurovision contest held were called to the Security Ministry to explain their vote after the national telecommunications company offered its phone records to the authorities.

That led to an investigation by Eurovision officials and eventual rule changes concerning telephone records.

This year's Eurovision competition will be held in Oslo, Norway in May. This year will be the fifth time that Armenia is participating.

Written by RFE/RL's Armenian Service and correspondent Richard Solash