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Politics

Social Media Propels Cypriot Apolitical Influencer Toward EU Parliament 

NICOSIA – An unknown who said he didn’t know anything about politics has used social media and his quest to hug Elon Musk to likely gain a seat in the European Parliament and become Cyprus’ third-biggest party: on his own.

Fidias Panagiotou, 24, was projected to come in third place in Cyprus’s European Parliament elections, according to exit polls, behind only the two major parties on the island, the ruling DISY and left-wing AKEL.

The polls by public broadcaster CyBC showed him gaining 15.7-18.3 percent of the vote, as did Alpha TV, a dizzying ascent for the son of an Orthodox priest only a few months after he announced he would campaign.

https://in-cyprus.philenews.com/local/who-is-fidias-panagiotou-the-24-year-old-social-media-star-turned-cypruss-third-largest-party/

He was known for being a presence on TikTok and one YouTube where he had 2.6 million subscribers following his every word after he began posting in 2019 when he started off on a mission to hug Musk, the eccentric owner of X, and eventually did.

At his announcement to run he showed up wearing three ties, a jacket and shorts, shunning more formal wear and said he had no qualifications and knew nothing about politics or the European Union but said he would learn.

Fidias Panayiotou, right, speaks to his supporters after elected in the European Elections in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Sunday, June 9, 2024. Panayiotou, a popular YouTuber and TikToker who’s humorous and occasionally obnoxious posts have earned him tens of thousands of followers has stunned Cyprus’ political world by appearing to wrest one of six seats allotted to the island nation in the European Parliament from traditional political powerhouses. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)

“I am 23 years old and I have never voted in my life, and I said to myself one night that if I never vote and I never take an interest, the same nerds are always going to be in power, and I said ‘enough!’” he said.

Enough people believed in that to help him jump over established politicians and parties and gain votes from an apparently disenchanted electorate tired of the usual mainstream parties making promises.

Fidias, who served in the Cypriot army’s Underwater Demolition Command admitted that in the past, he used to back the far-right ELAM and didn’t duck that he did it, seeming to win points for honesty.

On his decision to run as an independent he said: “I heard somewhere that if you are not satisfied with things around you and you want them to change, you have to be the change. Why did I choose to be independent? Because I can’t fit into molds. Because I want you to know that I have no party interests to serve.”

On hearing the first exit polls he said, “We have achieved a miracle,” and said about his predicted election that it would be “an important day, not only for Cyprus but possibly also for the entire world.”

A breakdown of data showed he got 39.5 percent those in his age group, from 18-24, and 27.5 percent from the 25-34 year olds and holding steady with 19 percent of those from 35-44, gaining the most from the technologically savvy.

Even among those in the 45-50 age group for whom social media isn’t as important he still got 14 percent of the vote in elections that the electorate however finds far less important than national polls.

He credited social media, said Philenews.  “This is maybe the first time a completely independent candidate has been elected, without having any connection with a political party, but with social media as his only weapon, and nothing else.”

He said the results should be a wake-up call to the political establishment and urged politicians to leave behind their “conflicts” and remember they are supposed to serve the people and not themselves or their own interests.

Shortly after the exit polls, he posted a video on TikTok announcing he would hold “Cyprus’s largest-ever party” and asked his followers to pick the location, but it should probably be able to hold a lot of people.

Before the election he told the news site POLITICO that he was running because he had had enough of the “nerds” in Brussels, one of the homes of the parliament, along with Strasbourg in France where there will be 720 members, up from 705.

https://www.politico.eu/article/cyprus-tiktoker-fidias-panayiotou-political-waves-european-elections/

At the time he was running fifth with just 8.7 percent support and going up against traditional parties running six candidates each for the six seats that Cyprus has in the largely symbolic body that does vote on the EU budget, however.

He had drawn some blowback by attempting to travel across India and Japan without paying, and instead begging for cash, which seemed unseemly to critics who didn’t like the spectacle of it.

He added that his goal was not to get elected, but to motivate young people to get involved in politics although voters have next to no interest about who their country’s candidates are for the European Parliament which is largely out of sight.

“The Fidias case is the definition of post-politics at a time when content production is a strategic priority for the European Union itself – beyond political planning,” John Ioannou, founder of Geopolitical Cyprus, told POLITICO.

“His venture resonates with broader themes, including the resurgence of populist sentiments in Europe, the primacy of image over ideology, and the imperative of civic engagement, particularly among nascent voters in countries like Cyprus,” he said of the phenomenon.

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