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The Natural Conclusion of Celebrity Politics and Proportional Representation
Yoshikazu Higashitani's Election and Removal shows Americans what not to do
If you think that Donald Trump is the apotheosis of celebrity politicians, the Japanese electorate elected a YouTuber to the upper house of the Japanese Diet last year.
A YouTuber-turned-lawmaker was expelled from Japan’s upper house on Wednesday following his continuous absence from parliamentary sessions since being elected last year.
Yoshikazu Higashitani, who also goes by GaaSyy including on a popular YouTube account that has since been suspended, lost his seat after he failed to appear in the House of Councilors while residing abroad, angering colleagues.
Yup, this is what can happen in modern politics. And of course, why has he not returned to Japan?
He had been living in the United Arab Emirates even before the election and has not returned to Japan since, citing concerns he might be detained by police investigating defamation complaints stemming from the celebrity gossip that propelled him to YouTube stardom.
Higashitani’s term started on July 26, 2022 last year. He served from then until now without ever stepping foot back in his “home” country.
Higashitani’s election is an indictment of what happens when you elect somebody to public office based on their celebrity and not their policies. On the bright side for Japan, they at least didn't elect him to run the country only for him to instigate a coup d’etat to try and keep himself in power.
But Higashitani’s election and subsequent removal is also an indictment against proportional representation.
Japan’s House of Councilors, the upper house of the Diet, is elected in two ways. There are 252 members of the House; 152 are elected by district and 100 elected by “national proportional representation.” Any party that scores more than a certain percentage of the vote in the national party vote elects a certain number of candidates via their national list. Higashitani was elected as a member of the single-issue NHK Party formed to fight TV licensing fees. And that party was one of ten parties to be elected through national proportional representation, including multiple nationalist and populist parties, the Communists, and a radical left-wing party formed by an actor.
There are certain elements of American political life that want to change the House of Representatives, in particular, to a proportional representation system as seen in Japan. Well, when you go to that kind of system vanity and celebrity candidates who don’t want to actually do the job of legislating are the kind of people you welcome into government. Imagine the most annoying celebrities you can think of who pontificate about political issues. Now imagine them in Congress.
Yoshikazu Higashitani’s election and subsequent removal from the Japanese House of Councilors is the natural conclusion of Celebrity Politics and Proportional Representation. And no country should want to buy into that pain.