Japanese YouTuber GaaSyy kicked out of parliament


Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday voted to expel a fellow member for not showing up for work — not even once.

Yoshikazu Higashitani, better known as celebrity gossip YouTuber GaaSyy, was elected to Japan’s upper house in July and hasn’t set foot in parliament — or in the country — since.

The 51-year-old made a name for herself by exposing alleged celebrity scandals on YouTube, gaining more than 1.2 million subscribers. That following helped him win 287,000 votes, and a seat in the House of Councillors, for a populist party that opposes the funding of license fees for public broadcaster NHK.

It also brought him to the attention of local police, who began investigating complaints from celebrities that he allegedly defamed and harassed them in his videos. According to Japanese media, Tokyo police searched several locations associated with him in January. His YouTube account was suspended in the summer.

GaaSyy launched his election campaign from abroad, claiming he was afraid of being detained by police if he returned to Japan. On March 7, he announced on Instagram that he was in Turkey supporting earthquake relief and would not return to apologize to parliament for his absence, as he had previously promised.

His removal from parliament was approved on Wednesday by 235 votes to 1. It was the first expulsion from Japan’s parliament in 72 years, and the first time a legislator has been expelled for prolonged absence in a country whose work culture demands regular face-time. and employees are judged by the hours they work.

GaaSyy has received approximately $149,000, which is all of his salary and bonuses calculated from his election to the time of his removal.

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Experts say GaaSyy appealed to some voters because he was a political outsider – an anti-hero railing against Japan’s tightly controlled entertainment industry. Before his YouTube career and brief foray into politics, he lived a flamboyant lifestyle and mingled with many of the celebrities he later gossiped about in his videos. On social media before his election, some had spoken out hope he can bring about changes in Japan’s political system, which is dominated by one party, and reveal each political secrets.

Populist parties have not gained as much of a foothold in Japan as they have in other industrialized democracies in recent years.

Jeffrey J. Hall, a political expert at Kanda University of International Studies, said the partnership with GaaSyy helped the NHK party gain a large enough share of the national vote to qualify for a seat in parliament.

“In the last election, more than a million people voted for this party,” he said in an email. “It is significant that so many people could be mobilized around a fringe party that spreads its message mainly through YouTube and other social media.”

He noted that GaaSyy’s expulsion does not prevent him from running in future elections. Many of those who voted for GaaSyy see him as a truth-teller targeted by the Japanese establishment, and “probably don’t care” about his absence, Hall said. “They don’t expect their politicians to sit in (parliaments) sessions and do the same things as normal politicians.”

Dozens of supporters showed up in front of parliament on Wednesday to protest his expulsion.

However, his party can continue. It recently changed its name to the Female Politicians 48 party. According to Japan’s electoral system, another member of the party will be appointed to take his place in parliament.

In a statement read in parliament on Tuesday, GaaSyy said: “There will continue to be people like me running for office. If you don’t want the world you created destroyed, exclude those people from the candidacy process from the very beginning.

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