YouTuber MP becomes Japan’s first lawmaker to be booted from parliament for never turning up

A YouTuber-turned-lawmaker has become Japan’s first MP to be expelled from parliament for the first time in over seven decades for being absent.

Yoshikazu Higashitani, known by his online name GaaSyy, was ordered to apologise earlier this month for his prolonged absence.

The 51-year-old MP, one of the two elected members of the fringe Seijika Joshi 48 party, had not set foot in the House of Councillors since his July 2022 election, despite attendance being mandatory for lawmakers.

The parliament’s disciplinary committee on Tuesday unanimously decided to strip him of his position from the upper House, ending his nearly eight-month-long political career.

“The committee has reached this conclusion after discussing the matter in consideration of the significance of the democratic electoral process,” Muneo Suzuki, head of the committee, was quoted by The Japan Times as saying.

“GaaSyy doesn’t understand the foundations of democracy, which is based on laws and rules.”

On Mr Higashitani’s behalf, his fellow lawmaker Satoshi Hamada protested the committee's decision, arguing it went against the will of those who voted for him.

The committee had summoned Mr Higashitani to deliver an in-person apology to the Upper House for his absence. He failed to show up at the session and instead announced on his YouTube channel that he was going to Turkey.

The former businessman and celebrity gossip YouTuber is believed to be living in the United Arab Emirates and fears being arrested upon return to Japan.

Back at home, he faces police questioning for allegedly intimidating and defaming celebrities. MPs in Japan enjoy a parliamentary privilege that protects them from arrests during sessions.

Mr Higashitani, however, will no longer be granted those rights after being stripped of his post.

His vacancy will be filled by another candidate from his party in accordance with the order of its proportional representation list for the Upper House election last year.

Seijika Joshi 48 had changed its name from NHK Party last week. Mr Higashitani is yet to comment on the latest development.