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Voting Begins At Eurovision Song Contest In Portugal


Moldova's DoReDoS performs My Lucky Day during a dress rehearsal for the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon.

Online and phone voting has begun as fans look to show support for their favorite performers in the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest, the annual pop-song festival that draws tens of millions of viewers from around the globe.

The May 12 final in Lisbon features performers from 26 countries, including artists from Ukraine, Serbia, and Moldova. Results and the winner will be announced later in the evening.

Portugal hosts the event this year because the Portuguese contestant, Salvador Sobral, won last year's event in Kyiv.

Israel's Netta Barzilai is tipped as a top contender to win the Eurovision title this year. Her entry Toy has been clicked more than 23 million times on YouTube.

This year saw the return to the competition of Russia, a traditional favorite, after missing last year's event amid a diplomatic spat with host Ukraine.

But it was a short return: Russia's contestant, Yulia Samoilova, went out in the semifinals, while Ukraine singer Melovin advanced to the grand final.

Eurovision was first held in 1956 with the aim of uniting Europe after World War II.

Today, it has a combined global audience of around 200 million and has launched the careers of a few of its winners, most notably ABBA and Celine Dion.

This year's final won't be seen in China, though.

The European Broadcast Union -- an alliance of public service broadcasters that organizes the event -- has barred Mango TV from airing the event. The Chinese video service had edited out a romantic dance sequence by two men from Ireland's entry in the first semifinal and blurred out rainbow flags in the audience.

Viewers and professional juries in all 43 participating countries will pick the winner, with televoting and juries each representing 50 percent of the outcome.

No country can vote for its own contestant.

Six countries automatically qualify for the grand final: the so-called "Big Five" of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain, as well as the host country.

Two semifinals last week cut the overall field from 43 to the 26 who will compete on May 12.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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