The Progressive Post

🇨🇾 The Cypriot roller-coaster election: social media savvy vs traditional politics


Member of the European and International Affairs Bureau of EDEK Socialist Party
Deputy President of EDEK Socialist Party

The recent elections revealed a political shift. Social media campaigning disrupted the traditional landscape, reflecting voters’ collective eye-roll at established politicians and the traditional vote. As the far right gains momentum across the EU, the results highlight the urgent need for younger, digitally savvy leaders.

The recent elections in Cyprus showcased a dramatic shift in voter sentiment, with the social media sensation Fidias Panayotou, a 24-year-old YouTuber with no political experience, capturing 20 per cent of the vote. This unexpected rise underscores a growing frustration with traditional politicians and a preference for fresh faces who harness the power of digital platforms. The election also highlighted the far right’s increasing influence, posing a significant threat to Socialist values across the EU. These developments signal a new era in European politics, where social media and voter discontent drive significant change.

In Cyprus, the recent European Parliament election results revealed a notable shift in the political dynamics. DYSI (EPP) maintained its strong presence by securing two out of the six available seats. AKEL (Left) experienced a setback, losing one seat and retaining only one. In a surprising turn of events, the independent newcomer and YouTuber Panayotou emerged as a significant contender, coming in third place and surpassing both ELAM (far-right) and DIKO (S&D), which each secured one seat. Unfortunately, EDEK lost its representation in the European Parliament, reflecting the changing political landscape and the emergence of new voices.

The dual challenge of holding the European Union elections and local elections simultaneously added complexity to the campaign. This overlap required voters to make decisions on multiple levels of governance, which may have influenced their choices and priorities.

The major twist in the recent Cypriot elections was not the success of the far-right, which was anticipated given the current political climate. Instead, the unexpected development was the election of a YouTuber with no stated positions. One in five people who voted in the EU elections in Cyprus chose Panayotou. His secret to success? His campaign, conducted entirely on social media, proves that in today’s world, having a large following can outweigh political substance. Panayotou’s victory also highlights voter frustration. His success indicates a public desire for younger politicians. However, his lack of political ideas and his past attendance at ELAM rallies (the far-right) raise concerns about his future policies. He has also expressed intentions to create a new group within the European Parliament by collaborating with other independent MEPs, YouTubers and TikTokers. 

The overall result underscores that many Cypriots do not believe in the European Parliament’s impact on their everyday lives and the significance of sending people with the appropriate skills and knowledge to Strasbourg, making this, unfortunately, a second-order election. Responsibility for this lies with several actors, including the European Parliament office in Cyprus, the MEPs, the education system, institutions, and us. 

With the next electoral national contest two years away, parties have a crucial opportunity to make necessary adjustments. Failing to do so could lead to disastrous outcomes in the next parliamentary elections. Without a doubt the rise of the far right poses a significant threat to Socialist values across the EU, jeopardizing principles of equality, social justice and inclusive governance. And then there is the wildcard: Fidias Panayotou. Will he be a breath of fresh air or the opening of Pandora’s box? Only time will tell. Grab your popcorn, because the EU just got even more interesting!

Photo credits: Shutterstock/Sunflowerr

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