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Transvestite Sisters stir Slovenia

"The Sisters" rejoice with second-place Stavec in foreground  

By Ales Gaube

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- The annual Eurovision Song contest is causing a stir in Slovenia, where a group of three transvestites called "The Sisters" are challenging traditional values.

The group has won the right to represent the country, where nearly three-quarters of the two million citizens identify themselves as Catholic.

Allegations of voting improprieties have compounded the shock to the national system and the debate has reached the Slovene parliament.

The trio -- lead singer Miss Marlena (real name Tomaz Mihelic), Daphne (Sreco Blas), and Emperatrizz (Damjan Levec) -- won the national heat on February 16 for their song, "Only Love."

The winner was picked by two juries and TV viewers. The juries' vote gave the trio the win by a single vote, despite apparently overwhelming public tele-vote support for the second-place finisher, Karmen Stavec and her song "More and More."

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Doubts about the fairness of the popular vote had been voiced before the final results were announced.

The results of the five-minute tele-voting period did not appear as planned and the tension among the artists in the studio rose as 20 minutes passed. The musical acts split into two camps, one supporting "The Sisters" and the others taking Stavec's side, shouting "Karmen, Karmen."

When the results were finally announced, Stavec had overwhelmingly won the telecast vote with 31,944 votes, while "The Sisters", who wore red air hostess uniforms for their performance, had received only 8,454 votes. Europe
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But with the jurors' votes, the trio gained overall victory and Stavec fled the stage in tears -- runner-up for the second year in a row.

"The Sisters" had little chance to savour their victory, however, as it was revealed that their songwriter, Magnifico, had got into a backstage brawl with a rival, Patrik Greblo, who had cheered for Stavec.

Then suspicions grew about the long-delayed tele-voting results. According to official results, 91,952 votes were cast for the 10 songs, doubling the previous year's total.

TV Slovenia and two tele-voting companies held a news conference to address the controversy. But it did nothing to clear the air as it was revealed that the tele-vote had lasted eight minutes -- three more than allowed -- and had started early.

The organisers gave no indication as to who had given the green light to open up the phone lines before the starting signal flashed on TV screens across Slovenia.

The trio won the national heat for their song, "Only Love"  

Misa Molk, editor-in-chief of TV Slovenia's Entertainment Program, ultimately said the tele-voting had been declared invalid. But "The Sisters" retain their crown.

Rules state that the juries' decision would count if tele-voting broke down, explained Molk.

Now a group of leading Slovenian singers, composers and record label bosses have written an open letter vowing never again to appear at TV Slovenia's Entertainment Program events.

The group said that no respect was being paid to their work, that the irregularities surrounding the public voting results had been poorly justified and that the jury members had overstepped their mandate with a unilateral decision in favour of "The Sisters."

In parliament, Slovene People's Party deputy Franc Kangler on Tuesday asked culture ministry officials how they intended to improve the public image of the national television station. The same day, the station's general manager, Aleks Stakul, demanded a thorough investigation.

"The Sisters" themselves have carefully avoided the squabbles, leading commentators to suggest they are already packing their suitcases for Estonia -- carefully laying the air hostess uniforms on top.


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