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Cyprus sends 24-year-old YouTuber to European Parliament

Fidias Panayiotou
Image: Video Screenshot

Cypriot voters have elected 24-year-old YouTube star Fidias Panayiotou, best known for audacious comedy clips and prank videos, as an independent to the European Parliament.

Known as “Fidias” to his 2.6 million followers, he shot to social media fame with stunts such as a mission to hug 100 celebrities, pizza-eating contests and video blogs showing him dodging fares on Japanese bullet trains.

Panayiotou, a self-described “professional mistake maker” with no political experience or party affiliation, had launched a campaign enticing young people to vote in the weekend elections.

In a unexpected victory seen as a rejection of traditional politics, he garnered 19.4 percent of the vote in the Mediterranean island-nation.

“It was a shock what happened, a miracle,” Panayiotou told state broadcaster CyBC in a video posted on social media platform X.

“The parties should take it as a warning that they must modernise and listen to the people.”

News website Philenews called Panayiotou’s rise a “resounding” message to established political parties and a major step towards “changing the political map”.

“The young YouTuber, fully utilising social media, with non-political rhetoric, without political positions, without knowledge — he admits it himself — of the European Union sphere, managed to bring about upheaval,” the website said.

Analysts said that Panayiotou, who has no comprehensive agenda, had shown that traditional parties were out of touch with voters and lacked understanding of social media and its impact.

The conservative party DISY took 24.8 percent, followed by communist AKEL with 21.5, costing it one of its two seats in the outgoing assembly.

Voters also sent a member of ultranationalist party ELAM to the European Parliament, echoing EU-wide gains to the far right in Sunday’s polls.

ELAM ran on an anti-immigration platform and won just over 11 percent of the votes, official results showed, giving the far-right party its first-ever European MP.

Panayiotou, the son of a Greek Orthodox Christian priest, used his social media presence to encourage young Cypriots to head out to the polls.

He has more than 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube and has also posted his content on Instagram and TikTok.

His projects have included a mission to hug 100 celebrities including tech billionaire Elon Musk, spending a week in a coffin and training with China’s Shaolin kung fu warriors.

The Republic of Cyprus, the European Union’s easternmost member, has a population of some 900,000 people, of whom 683,432 were registered to vote.

Turnout was at 58.86 percent, up from 45 percent in the 2019 European polls — a rise analysts attribute at least in part to the “Fidias factor”.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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