Parliament: livestreaming instead of legislating: Japanese YouTuber MP Yoshikazu Higashitani fired for not showing up for work

Since he was elected in Japan parliament in July, Yoshikazu Higashitani broadcast celebrity gossip on his YouTube channel, explored Dubai sights and handed out snacks to children displaced by an earthquake in Turkey.
One thing he hasn’t done is show up for work.
On Wednesday, he was expelled from Japan’s upper house of parliament, the House of Councillors, making him the country’s first elected lawmaker to be removed from office in more than seven decades.
Before his short career as a legislator, Higashitani, 51, was well known for his long livestreams during which he spread salacious celebrity gossip under the handle “GaaSyy”. He ran for parliament from Dubai, saying he could not return to Japan because police were investigating him for fraud. While in self-imposed exile, he campaigned and promised to expose dozens of celebrity scandals.
To the surprise of many, he won – running as the single show contestant NHK Party, which is dedicated to bringing about changes to how Japan’s national broadcaster is financed. But he has missed every session of the House of Councilors since then.
In the meantime, he’s maintained diverse interests, balancing his lengthy celebrity rants with playful posts about visiting La Sagrada Familia in Spain and doing water sports in Thailand, using the hashtag “#endlesssummer.” Last week he said he traveled to Turkey and, in videos posted online, he was seen handing out snacks to children in areas devastated by an earthquake in February, in front of a team shooting.
The founder of the NHK To party, Takashi Tachibana, told reporters in January that police had asked Higashitani, another party member, to cooperate with investigations related to accusations of defamatory remarks and threats he had made in his videos, and that the YouTuber would return to the country in March. (Police declined to comment.)
In February, the House of Councilors demanded that Higashitani to apologize in open session, a disciplinary act right after the expulsion. He had agreed to do so, only to reverse the decision last week, saying he did not feel safe enough to return, despite having immunity from arrest as a lawmaker.
Tachibana announced last Wednesday that he would step down as party leader. “As party leader, I will take responsibility for GaaSyy’s failure to fulfill his promise to return to the upper house to apologize,” Tachibana told a news conference.
He added that the party would be renamed “Seijika Joshi 48 To”, which translates to Politician Girls 48 Party, and that actress Ayaka Otsu would replace him. Tachibana said the party would expand its goals and also only recruit female candidates to run in the upcoming local elections.
Koichi Nakano, a professor of comparative politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, said the party’s rebranding was a response to a move to increase the number of female candidates running for office.
“The NHK party must have thought they could poke fun at this in a misogynistic and right-wing way, treating female contestants as if they were teen pop idols like AKB48,” Nakano wrote in an email. , referring to a popular female pop group. .
He added that Higashitani’s high profile and what he said was his party’s populist appeal got him elected. “It’s unusual, to some degree, but Japan has had its own share of media celebrities who are complete political enthusiasts, including comedians, actors and pop singers, though none were so few. serious than GaaSyy,” Nakano added.
Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japanese campus, wrote in an email: “The NHK party, despite the rebranding, has done little but register discontent. towards the establishment and dissatisfaction with the mandatory fee that every household has to pay, even if they don’t watch NHK.
Muneo Suzuki, who heads a key disciplinary committee in parliament, told reporters on Tuesday that Higashitani had already had plenty of time to correct his behavior but ultimately undermined the electoral process. “GaaSyy does not understand what democracy means in principle,” he said.
Dozens of protesters, mostly members of the Seijika Joshi 48 party, gathered outside the legislature before lawmakers voted on whether to expel Higashitani. Of the 236 lawmakers who attended the session, all but one voted to oust him.
Higashitani could not immediately be reached for comment, but in a statement read to the House by Satoshi Hamadafellow lawmaker, Higashitani said his impeachment was unjust.
“There will always be people like me running for office. If you don’t want the world you created to be destroyed, please exclude these people from applying from the start,” he wrote in the statement. “I wish the same punishment on legislators who leave their seats immediately after supporting their nameplate and on those who sleep and don’t show up like me.”


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