TOKYO – A YouTuber-turned-lawmaker was kicked out of Japan’s upper house on Wednesday after consistently absent from parliamentary sessions since his election last year.
Yoshikazu Higashitani, who also uses GaaSyy, including on a popular YouTube account that has since been suspended, lost his seat after failing to appear in the House of Councilors while living abroad, angering his colleagues.
The 51-year-old received nearly 300,000 votes last July in his campaign for the Diet, Japan’s parliament, as a member of a single-issue party advocating reform at NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster. He lived in the United Arab Emirates before the election and has not returned to Japan since, citing concerns he could be detained by police investigating defamation complaints stemming from the celebrity gossip that led him to YouTube. brought stardom.
Last week, GaaSyy said on Instagram that he was in Gaziantep, Turkey to help with the earthquake and that it was too early for him to return to Japan. He is currently believed to be back in the UAE city of Dubai.
He is the first Japanese legislator to be removed from the legislature in more than 70 years and the first to be suspended for an extended period of absence. The decision won’t stop him from running again.
The vote was 235 to 1, and the only opposition came from his only party member in the room.
That legislator, Satoshi Hamada, said he had hoped GaaSyy could continue to serve as an MP.
“I want to apologize to Congressman GaaSyy and everyone who voted for him,” Hamada told reporters after the vote.
Ayaka Ohtsu, the head of GaaSyy’s party, said she was “disappointed” by the decision and that GaaSyy could have performed his duties remotely on behalf of his constituents, some of whom protested outside parliament on Wednesday.
“I believe the nearly 300,000 people who voted for GaaSyy knew he would work from abroad,” she said at a press conference in Tokyo.
Lawmakers from other parties said it was an easy decision.
“Despite being given the opportunity to apologize on the floor of the Diet, he never responded and continued to ignore the opportunity,” said Hiroshige Seko, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan in Tokyo, said the decision made sense from the point of view of taxpayers, who have paid GaaSyy an estimated $149,000 since his election.
“His expulsion is no surprise as he never attended any diet sessions and did not represent the disillusioned voters who supported him,” he said in an email. “Not showing up is not the same as shaking up politics as usual.”