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Yet another scandal at Bulgaria's Eurovision contest

Date: 28.02.2009

The choice of Krassimir Avramov and his song Illusion to represent Bulgaria at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow in May, has caused a turmoil in Bulgaria with people asking for Avramov's disqualification.

On February 21 2009, Bulgarians had a 15-minute time frame to send their text messages in support of the 12 songs performed live at the National Palace of Culture (NDK) in Sofia.

Since 2005, this has been the traditional way of Bulgarian National Television (BNT), which organises the contest for the Bulgarian song at Eurovision finals, to settle qualification.

At the end of the 15-minute break, Avramov was declared the winner with 55.52 per cent of the vote. Second was Poli Genova and her song One Lifetime Is Not Enough with 11.74 per cent and third came Mariana Popova and her song Crazy with 8.45 per cent.

It was the big gap between the winner and the second-ranked singer that was one of the reasons why many questioned the objectivity of the voting procedure. As in previous years, conspiracy theories started suggesting that the voting has been fixed and that Avramov did not look surprised enough when he heard his name as the winner.

Some claimed that the voting procedure was done in a way that did not give enough time for fans of the other participants to send their text messages and that the SMSs have been rejected.

Another fact that caused reactions against Avramov was that he has been living abroad, which, according to his critics, has made him unfamiliar with Bulgarian culture and that was why he should not represent Bulgaria in Moscow.

Avramov has been living in Los Angeles for the last 10 years.

The quality of Avramov's live performance on February 21 was another reason for his critics to ask for his disqualification, with claims that he could not perform in front of a live audience.

The first to react to Avramov's choice was composer Naiden Andreev, who in a February 23 2009 open letter asked Avramov to step down and give up performing in Moscow. "Krassi, it is in your best interest to step down and not make us feel ashamed that we are Bulgarians," Andreev said.

"Bulgarian audience showed its disapproval of your song in on line forums and Facebook," he said.

Second to raise its voice against Avramov was an initiative committee set up in support of the runner-up Poli Genova, who asked for her to take Avramov's place. In a long letter sent to the media on February 23, the committee attacked Avramov on several grounds: that he has fixed the voting, that he has lived and worked abroad and did not have a clue what has been happening in Bulgaria, that he could not sing in front of live audience, that he had a doubtful reputation and had an extravagant image with an "untraditional sexual character".

Such a person, the committee said, "must not be Bulgaria's face in Moscow in May".

The committee asked BNT to send Genova to Moscow instead of Avramov, to which BNT has not yet replied.

The committee quoted dozens of artists, composers and Facebook reactions, who all claim that Avramov's song should not have allowed into the national final on February 21 in the first place. Of them, only legendary singer Kiril Marichkov calls for less emotions in the reactions since "no major international star has come out of Eurovision with the exception of ABBA so this whole thing should not be taken that serious but rather with a smile".

So far, neither the BNT nor Avramov have reacted to the calls for his disqualification, but considering the way Eurovision works, such an outcome would be highly unlikely unless he decided to step down himself.

Scandals in selecting Bulgaria's song for the Eurovision's are nothing new. One of Bulgaria's most popular entertainers Slavi Trifonov refused to perform on stage in 2005 claiming that the result was fixed for boy-band Kaffe. The band did win the contest but stumbled in the Eurovision semi-finals stage.

Bulgaria's best showing in the contest was in 2007, when Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankulov finished fifth. Last year, Deep Zone & Balthazar did not make the final cut to appear in the final of the competition.

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