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How a viral Youtuber harvested resentment with Cypriot politics and got elected to EU Parliament

Featured How a viral Youtuber harvested resentment with Cypriot politics and got elected to EU Parliament

One interesting aspect of the recent European elections wass the election of 24-year-old YouTuber and TikToker Fidias Panayiotou to one of Cyprus' six chairs in the European PArliament. Panaytiotou has no political experience and no formal higher education and simply rode the wave of his online popularity, and public anger at the country's political elites.


He says he’ll keep using social media “as my biggest weapon to use” when he formally takes up his new job as a European legislator.

Widely addressed by his first name, Fidias secured a remarkable one in five votes cast in Sunday’s election without the support of any political party, which was so far the only way of getting elected in any political contest in Cyprus.

Fidias sent shockwaves through the Cypriot political system by running a campaign in which he took no political positions, made no promises or even presented a program for his time in office.

“It seems now that people are hungry not for political positions, but for true people that are not lying (but) saying the truth,” he told The Associated Press in an interview in English, the language he uses for most of his posts.

Riding the wave

Fidias  spent the last five years boosting his popularity with outrageous video posts of him spending wads of cash in Vietnam, living a week in an airport for free, and burying himself alive for 10 days.

He has over 5 million followers across all social media platforms. This according to Fidias, served him well when he decided nie for a seat. He said he learned to play the social media game through trial and error and to understand what makes videos go “viral” online.

“At first I didn’t like what I saw in politics. So if you don’t like what you see, I think you need to become the change that you want to see,” Fidias has said.

By his own admission, his online popularity was only part of his victory, the rest of his votes came from Cypriots who are deeply disenchanted with the perceived corruption of a patron-client party system for decades. He thus became an ideal an outlet to vent their anger and chastise the country’s political caste.

“It will be a lie to say that it was only the social media. I think it played the biggest factor, but it was a magnifying glass to what I really am,” he said.

Nicholas Papadopoulos, leader of the centrist Democratic Party, which lost its lone European Parliament seat, told Cypriot state radio on Tuesday that the vote clearly sent a “message of disappointment, of protest, of desperation, of anger” that targeted the country’s entire political system."