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Japanese YouTube star ousted from parliament after not showing up

By Theara Coleman,

2023-03-15

A YouTube star who became a lawmaker in Japan last year was fired from his position after failing to show up to any parliamentary sessions since being elected last year, CNN reports.

At a plenary session Wednesday, Japan's upper house voted to expel Yoshikazu Higashitani due to his continued absence, "the first time it has taken such a step in more than seven decades," CNN adds. Before being elected to the Upper House of Japan's parliament in July 2022, he was known for running a YouTube channel covering celebrity gossip under the online alias GaaSyy,

GaaSyy earned nearly 300,000 votes last July in his campaign for a seat in Japan's parliament, the Diet. He launched his campaign from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been living before the election, and has not stepped foot in Japan since, "citing concerns he might be detained by police investigating defamation complaints stemming from the celebrity gossip that propelled him to YouTube stardom," NBC News explains. Last week he said he was in Turkey to help with hurricane relief and that it was too soon for him to return to Japan, in a video on Instagram.

He failed to respond to a "letter of invitation" from the Speaker of the Upper House and refused to return to apologize for his absence. His expulsion was approved by 235 votes to 1. "It was the first expulsion from Japan's parliament in 72 years, and the first time a lawmaker has been ejected for continued absence," The Washington Post reported.

The head of GaaSyy's party, Ayaka Ohtsu was "disappointed" by the parliament's decision to remove him, and said that he could have worked remotely on behalf of his constituents, "some of whom protested outside parliament on Wednesday," NBC News adds. "I believe that those close to 300,000 people who voted for GaaSyy knew that he would be working from overseas," she said at a news conference.

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