Cyprus’ Fidias the first influencer MEP

The election of social media influencer Fidias Panayiotou to the European parliament is something “we have never seen before”, elections expert Yiannis Mavris said on Monday.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), he said Panayiotou’s election came about as a result of the “personalisation of politics” and the “strengthening of the role of a political leader in a party at the expense of the party base.

“Here, we are dealing with a purely personal phenomenon, without a party attached. This is a step further, it is an innovative element, we have not seen it before. It is entirely person-centred,” he said.

He added that Panayiotou’s candidacy attracted many to the ballot box who otherwise may not have voted.

A large part of his coalition of voters is people who typically abstain from voting or submit blank ballots or spoil their ballots. More than a third of his voters came from there,” he said.

He also said Panayiotou’s election is an extension of the Cyprus electorate’s “questioning” of the country’s traditional political parties, adding that the island is not undergoing a “social explosion”, but that there is an underlying disapproval of the country’s established political forces.

He added that votes for Panayiotou could therefore be construed as a “protest vote”, and one which has come amid increasing electoral “fluidity” as Cyprus’ established political parties lose their traditional popular support.

Crowds gathered at Nicosia’s central Eleftheria square to celebrate his victory, with one in five voters on Sunday backing him.

He also spoke on television following the release of the exit polls indicating his victory on Sunday evening, saying “we have achieved a miracle”.

He added, “today is an important day, not only for Cyprus but possibly also for the entire world.

This is maybe the first time a completely independent candidate has been elected, without having any relation whatsoever with a political party, but with social media as his only weapon, and nothing else.

“This maybe means the world has reached a moment at which a new chapter in the book of democracy begins,” he added.

He went on to say that his election may open the door for a “new type of democracy” which is more direct and which “gives more power to the people”.

He added an “I love you” to those who voted for him and promised to be “an MEP for the entire Cypriot people, as well as for all of the peoples of Europe”.

Panayiotou was born in the village of Meniko in 2000. He commonly goes by his first name and has over 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube, having begun posting videos on the platform in 2019.

He became famous on the platform for a number of outlandish stunts, including embarking on a mission to hug Elon Musk. He garnered controversy late last year after attempting to travel across Japan while not paying for his transport and begging for cash.

He had hidden inside a bullet train having not bought a ticket for it, and feigned illness when confronted by a conductor, before boarding another train and repeating the stunt.

He also was detained after failing to pay for a bus, before being subsequently being released.