These candidates who won seats in the European Parliament aren’t who you might expect

Germany's Maximilian Krah, of the far-right 'Alternative for Germany' party, grimaces during a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. [Jean-Francois Badias, AP]

He has no political experience. No high-profile endorsements. No party affiliation. What Fidias Panayiotou does have are 2.6 million followers on YouTube and more on TikTok. And now he has won a seat in the European Parliament representing Cyprus, one of several unusual candidates who launched improbable campaigns only to snag membership in the 720-seat legislature.

"I wasn't planning on voting, but since I've been seeing you on TikTok, I'll vote for you," said a driver Panayioutou stops, interviews and posts about.

Social media played an outsized role in the victories of a few candidates, prompting chatter in the political classes about its apparent role as an equalizer for unknown hopefuls as voters in dozens of democracies go to the polls this year, including in Britain, France and the United States .

Voters in the parliament's 27 countries in recent days...

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