Ukrainian singer Jamala has won the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, held in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ukraine scored 534 points with Jamala’s song 1944 – about the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Josef Stalin.
Australia finished second with 511 points, while Russia – which was the favorite going into the competition – was third with 491 points.
Jamala is the first ever Crimean Tatar to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest and caused controversy ahead of the show over her political song.
1944 references the year when Josef Stalin deported almost all of the ethnic group from its native region of Crimea in what was then Soviet Russia (later to become part of Ukraine).
Jamala had dedicated the song to her great grandmother who was forced to leave along with a quarter of a million Tatars, as a collective punishment for those who had collaborated during the Nazi occupation.
The song had been expected to finish in the top three but in a surprise result beat favorites Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and had been angered by the song.
Collecting her award, Jamala thanked Europe for their votes, adding: “I really want peace and love to everyone.”
Speaking about her win backstage after, Jamala said: “It’s amazing. I was sure that if you talk about truth it really can touch people.”
This year, organizer introduced a new scoring system was introduced this year, providing separate scores for each country’s jury and public votes, rather than combining them as in previous years.
At the half-way point after the juries’ votes had been counted, Australia – which had been invited back to perform after last year’s 60th anniversary celebrations – topped the scoreboard with 320 points and a firm lead over Ukraine’s 211 points.
However, Dami Im’s Sound of Silence failed to strike the same chord with the public and was voted the fourth most popular song overall.
The new scoring system highlighted the disparity between the preferences of the juries and the public.
It allowed Poland, which was in penultimate place with seven points from the jury, to leap to eighth when the public’s 227 points were taken into account.
Germany’s Jamie-Lee finished in last place as her song Ghost received 11 points.
Justin Timberlake performed his new single during the interval of the show.
A new voting system will be implemented at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
This is the biggest change to voting since 1975.
In previous years each country’s jury and public votes were combined and announced in one go.
Now the votes will be split with each country’s jury vote cast first, and votes from viewers in all countries combined and announced at the end.
According to organizers, this will create a “dramatic finish” as the winner will only be revealed at the very end.
In previous years the winner has been known for up to 20 minutes before the end of voting.
“This format change will inject a new level of excitement into the finish of the Eurovision Song Contest,” said Martin Osterdahl, executive producer for this year’s show.
The new voting system is a “big step forward”, according to Jon Ola Sand – executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest – that will “make a better television show as well as a more exciting competition”.
Jon Ola Sand added: “It is fitting that this change to the contest’s iconic scoring sequence will be debuted in Stockholm, where the famous douze points system was introduced in 1975.”
The same voting system will be used in the semi-finals.
For those wanting to know how their country has voted, the televoting and jury scores from each participating country will be available after the show on the official Eurovision website.
The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Stockholm on Saturday, May 14.
Germany has decided to withdraw its act for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest following criticism Xavier Naidoo’s lyrics are anti-Semitic and homophobic.
Xavier Naidoo, of Indian and African heritage, has sold millions of albums in Germany, but songs such as 2012’s Wo Sind (Where Are) have been widely criticized.
Anti-racism groups’ complained after Xavier Naidoo’s selection, on November 19, for the Stockholm contest.
Germany’s public broadcaster ARD denied the “brilliant” singer was racist.
Executive Thomas Schreiber added: “It was clear that his nomination would polarize opinions, but we were surprised about the negative response.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is a fun event, in which music and the understanding between European people should be the focus.
“This characteristic must be kept at all costs. The ongoing discussion about Naidoo could harm the image of the Eurovision Song Contest.
“This is why Naidoo will not represent Germany. We will quickly decide now, how the German entry for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest will be found.”
In 2014, when Germany marked the 25th anniversary of reunification, Xavier Naidoo was criticized for appearing at a rally of the controversial Reichsbuerger group, which wants the re-establishment of Germany as a two-border state.
On November 20, Germany’s most popular newspaper, Bild, questioned Xavier Naidoo’s selection, on its front page.
Anti-racism group the Amadeu Antonio Foundation also described the choice as “problematic”.
In response, Xavier Naidoo, 44, said on Facebook, in his native language, that it was “OK for me” and that ARD had urged him to compete in the first place.
The singer also said he represented a Germany that was “open to the world” and tolerant of different religions and lifestyles.
The 2015 Eurovision Song Contest was won by Swedish singer Mans Zelmerlow with his upbeat pop track Heroes, which was accompanied by innovative animated visuals.
Germany, which came last in the 2015 competition, with zero points, would name a new contender as soon as possible, Thomas Schreiber said.