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The Eurovision Song Contest 1996 was the third time that Estonia entered the Eurovision Song Contest, and was their first participation since their last place in the 1994 final. The entrant was again selected by a panel of expert judges, with thirteen entrants into the preselection final. The preselection would end up tied on points, with Maarja-Liis Ilus and Ivo Linna‘s duet « Kaelakee hääl » winning on the basis of being awarded more maximum points than the runner-up Kadri Hunt. In the final, Ilus and Linna finished 5th.
The 1996 preselections were hosted by Marko Reikop and Karmel Eikner, and were broadcast live from a night club in the Estonian capital Tallinn. Thirteen songs entered the event, with several acts entering with more than one song. Several artists had also competed in the last Estonian preselection for the 1994 contest, including Evelin Samuel and Pearu Paulus.
The preselections were voted on by a panel of judges from across Europe, with Maarja-Liis Ilus and Ivo Linna tying first with Kadri Hunt on 62 points. After a review of the scoring, it was announced that Ilus and Linna would go on to represent Estonia at the finals in Oslo, due to the Finnish judge awarding them maximum points – Something which Hunt had not achieved from any judge during the voting process.
|1||Evelin Samuel and Toomas Rull||Kaheksa näoga kuu||54||5|
|2||Kadri Hunt||Me rõõm ei kao||62||2|
|3||Üllar Meriste||Iialgi veel||37||13|
|4||Hedvig Hanson and Pearu Paulus||Meeletu algus||50||7|
|5||Urmas Podnek||Vaba kui tuul||41||10|
|6||Evelin Samuel, Karl Madis,
Maarja-Liis Ilus and Pearu Paulus
|7||Ivo Linna and Kadi-Signe Selde||Lihtne viis||40||12|
|8||Reet Kromel and Arne Lauri||Laule ja palveid täis päev||50||7|
|10||Kirile Loo||Maatütre tants||56||4|
|11||Sirje Medell||Elust enesest||48||9|
|12||Maarja-Liis Ilus and Ivo Linna||Kaelakee hääl||62||1|
|13||Tõnis Mägi||Eestimaa euromehe laul||41||10|
Estonia had missed the Eurovision Song Contest 1995 final due to a low score in the 1994 event, which allowed other countries the chance of compete in 1995. Likewise, low scoring countries at the 1995 final missed out for 1996, allowing Estonia to get back in. In the final, Estonia would not have to worry about low scoring putting them out for 1997, with Ilus and Linna performing strongly and receiving maximum points from Sweden, Finland and Iceland. With the scores received from other countries steady also, Estonia managed to finish 5th, their highest ever placing at the time.
Points awarded by Estonia
|2 points||United Kingdom|
Points awarded to Estonia
|12 points||10 points||8 points||7 points||6 points|
|5 points||4 points||3 points||2 points||1 point|
(Note: Entries scored out are when Estonia did not compete)