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Eurovision rivalry hits grim note

Azerbaijan locals' voting in BBC show questioned

The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956 as a way to help restore harmony to a continent torn apart by war.

More than five decades later the competish, organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), ranks as one of the world’s longest-running TV shows.

While votes are cast on a country-by-country basis, the idea is that nationalistic rivalries are put aside so the contest is decided strictly on merit.

Azerbaijan participated in the program for the first time last year, but doubts over the country’s continued presence in Eurovision have emerged following reports of alarming behavior by the Azerbaijan police.

Several locals in Azerbaijan have, according to the BBC, been questioned by police after they were discovered voting for a song submitted by neighboring Armenia.

One man said he was accused of being unpatriotic and “a potential security threat” following a phone vote supporting Armenia’s entry “Jan Jan.”

Reps of the Azerbaijani government say people had merely been invited to explain their reasons for voting for Armenia. The two countries fought over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the 1990s.

The EBU is investigating the situation, which some see as a means by president Ilham Aliyev to provoke tensions with Armenia.

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