Thursday, June 13, 2024

Meet the 24-year-old YouTuber from Cyprus who won a seat in the EU elections

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Star YouTuber Fidias Panayiotou celebrated his election to the European Parliament at Eleftheria Square in capital Nicosia. Reuters

What bridged the gap between political power and digital influence this EU election? The victory of a YouTuber.

In a surprising twist of events, Fidias Panayiotou, a 24-year-old content creator from Cyprus, with no political experience whatsoever, has clinched a seat in the European Parliament. The TikToker garnered 19.4 per cent votes, third-highest in the Mediterranean island nation, leaving behind many traditional political parties.

“It was a shock what happened, a miracle,” Panayiotou told the state broadcaster CyBC after his victory. “The parties should take it as a warning that they must modernise and listen to the people,” he added.

But who is Fidias Panayiotou and why did he step into political arena? Let’s delve into the details

‘Professional mistake maker’

Best known for his audacious comedy clips and prank videos, Panayiotou, commonly known as Fidias, has built a substantial following of about 2.6 million on YouTube since he first started posting in 2019.

Fidias who has described himself as a “professional mistake maker” has run a bunch of quirky projects that included a mission to hug 100 celebrities including tech billionaire Elon Musk (which he successfully did), training with China’s Shaolin kung fu warriors and even spending a week in a coffin.

Fidias met Elon Musk in January 2023 after camping outside X’s Office for over two months. Instagram/ @Fidias0

That’s not all, the newly-elected MEP also stirred controversy last year after he attempted to travel across India and Japan without paying, and instead begging for cash. He was seen evading train fares by hiding in toilets and skipping out on a five-star hotel breakfast bill in Japan.

The video which racked up millions of views led to significant backlash, and the vlogger was forced to issue an apology video, which he later deleted. YouTube also deleted the fare-dodging videos for breaching its community guidelines.

What motivated him to contest elections?

According to Politico, Fidias announced his candidacy in January after his appearance on Cypriot TV, Alpha Cyprus where he said that he could no longer stand the continued rule of “nerds” in Brussels while confessing that he had no idea about politics or the European Union but was willing to learn.

“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 announced.

Later, in April Fidias submitted his papers as an independent candidate alongside his father, a priest, saying, “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,” he told the local news portal Sigmalive.

He added that his goal was not to win, but to motivate young people to get involved in politics.

‘Fidias factor’

The YouTuber celebrated his win in the capital Nicosia on Sunday wearing a plain grey shirt and shorts. He announced, “We are writing history. Not just in Cyprus, but internationally.”

His unexpected success in the European Union elections has been described by Philenews as a “resounding” message to established political parties, marking a major step towards “changing 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.

The Mediterranean island nation with a population of about 9,00,000, saw a voter turnout of about 59 per cent, a notable increase from 45 per cent in the 2019 elections. Analysts attribute this rise in part to the “Fidias factor.”

Earlier, Philenews’ analysis of exit poll data showed Fidias capturing 40 per cent of the votes from the 18-24 age group and 28 per cent from the 25-34 age group.

Mediterranean island nation with a population of about 9,00,000, saw a voter turnout of about 59 per cent, a notable increase from 45 per cent in the 2019 elections. Analysts attribute this rise in part to the ‘Fidias factor.’ Reuters

Analysts said the YouTuber, who had 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 Democratic Rally (DISY) took 24.8 per cent, followed by the communist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) with 21.5, costing it one of its two seats in the outgoing assembly.

Cypriot voters also sent a member each from ultranationalist party National Popular Front (ELAM) with 11 per cent votes and Centrist party DIKO with 10 per cent votes to the European Parliament.

With input from agencies

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