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YouTuber loses seat in Japan's Parliament for never showing up to work

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TOKYO — A YouTuber-turned-lawmaker has been kicked out of Japanin the upper house on Wednesday after his continued absence from parliamentary sessions since being elected last year.

Yoshikazu Higashitani, who also goes by the name GaaSyy, including on a popular YouTube account that has since been suspended, lost his seat after failing to run for the House of Councilors while residing overseas, prompting the anger of his colleagues.

The 51-year-old received nearly 300,000 votes last July when campaigning for the Diet, Japan’s parliament, as a member of a single-issue party which advocates reforms of NHK, the public broadcaster Japanese. He was living in the United Arab Emirates even before the election and has not returned to Japan since, fearing he could be detained by police investigating defamation claims stemming from celebrity gossip that propelled him to YouTube stardom. .

Last week, GaaSyy said on Instagram that he was in Gaziantep, Turkey, to help earthquake relief and that it was too early for him to return to Japan. He is currently believed to be back in the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

He is the first Japanese lawmaker to be expelled from the legislature in over 70 years and the first to be expelled after a long absence. The decision does not prevent him from standing for re-election.

The vote was 235 to 1, with the only opposition coming from his sole party colleague in the chamber.

This lawmaker, Satoshi Hamada, said he had hoped that GaaSyy could continue to sit in parliament.

“I would like to apologize to Congressman GaaSyy and everyone who voted for him,” Hamada told reporters after the vote.

Ayaka Ohtsu, GaaSyy’s party leader, said she was “disappointed” by the decision and that GaaSyy could have carried out her duties remotely on behalf of her constituents, some of whom demonstrated outside parliament on Wednesday.

“I believe the nearly 300,000 people who voted for GaaSyy knew he would be working from overseas,” she told a news conference in Tokyo.

Lawmakers from other parties said it was an easy call.

“Although he was given the opportunity to apologize to 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 perspective of taxpayers, who have paid GaaSyy about $149,000 since his election.

“His expulsion comes as no surprise as he never attended 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 politics as usual.”


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