Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Japan YouTuber lawmaker faces apology demand, possible expulsion over continued absence

Muneo Suzuki, the chair of the upper house Committee on Discipline, seated at the center in the back, and other board members attend a meeting in the Members' Office Building of the House of Councillors in Tokyo on Feb. 16, 2023. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- An upper house disciplinary committee is likely to order YouTuber-turned-lawmaker GaaSyy to apologize in a plenary session in the Diet over his continued absence, and may expel him if he does not appear.

    In a Feb. 16 board meeting of the House of Councillors Committee on Discipline, it was confirmed that a committee session to discuss the handling of GaaSyy's case will be held on Feb. 21, and that his punishment will be decided the same day. It has been deemed that he is likely to receive orders to apologize during a plenary session. If he does not attend the plenary session, the disciplinary committee is set to hold another meeting to hand down the heaviest punishment of expulsion.

    GaaSyy, whose real name is Yoshikazu Higashitani, is a member of the NHK Party, but he has remained absent from the Diet since his election in July 2022 and currently resides in the United Arab Emirates. On Feb. 21, he will be given the chance to provide explanations on why he has remained away. His online attendance at the disciplinary committee session, requested by the NHK Party, will not be allowed. Instead, upper house member Satoshi Hamada, who belongs to the party, plans to read a document on his behalf. Afterward, Hamada will be questioned by members of the Liberal Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party, and others, followed by debate, and the punishment will be decided that day.

    It is the first time that the disciplinary committee will be convened on the grounds of a Diet member's absence. There are four types of disciplinary action in order of severity: "expulsion," "suspension from attending the upper house for a certain period," "apology in an open plenary sitting," and "admonition in an open plenary sitting." While each political party has not revealed their stances regarding the disciplinary action, among ruling and opposition parties, the decision to make GaaSyy apologize at a plenary session is considered likely.

    An upper house plenary session is set to be held on Feb. 22, following the disciplinary committee's decision. In the case that GaaSyy is absent, the committee will convene another meeting, viewing his absence as noncompliance with the punishment, and go ahead with the severest punishment of expulsion. Though some opted for GaaSyy to be expelled immediately during the board meeting on Feb. 16, an individual affiliated with the disciplinary committee said, "The matter should be handled carefully with thorough procedures."

    GaaSyy remained absent even after the upper house issued an "invitation" urging his attendance in upper house president Hidehisa Otsuji's name. Otsuji referred the matter to the disciplinary committee on Feb. 10.

    If the upper house decides to punish him, it will be the first case of its kind since 2013, when then lawmaker Antonio Inoki was subjected to a 30-day suspension from appearing in the Diet for visiting North Korea without the chamber's consent.

    (Japanese original by Itsuo Tokubo, Political News Department)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media