MORIOKA, Iwate Pref. – The Great Sasuke won his first battle as a politician Wednesday when the Iwate Prefectural Assembly voted down a motion banning the wearing of masks at assembly sessions.
The vote initially resulted in a tie, but Yoshinobu Fujiwara, the chairman of the assembly, used his vote to reject the motion, which was submitted in May by assembly members of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The motion targeted the Great Sasuke, a 33-year-old pro wrestler elected to the assembly in April.
“To be honest, I’m relieved that the rules were not amended,” the masked lawmaker later told a news conference.
The Great Sasuke, whose real name is Masanori Murakawa, wore his trademark mask during the election campaign. He ran under his ring name.
He vowed to keep wearing some kind of mask — albeit one featuring a more open-faced design — even after taking office.
His position was primarily backed by the Liberal Party, as well as smaller groups in the 51-member assembly.
The assembly had been trying to resolve the issue through steering committee negotiations mediated by groups that included the Social Democratic Party. The motion was finally brought to a vote, however, with the LDP and the Liberal Party having failed to settle their differences.
In presenting the motion, the LDP sponsors stated that masks are inappropriate in terms of “common sense” and that wearing them detracts from the dignity of the assembly.
But Liberal Party members said the assembly should respect the will of the voters who elected the masked wrestler. The Great Sasuke received 16,286 votes, the most of any candidate.
Asked by reporters why he voted against the motion to ban masks, Fujiwara said, “My vote was the result of a decision I made both as the chairman and as an assembly member. A revision of the general rules of the legislature is a serious matter.”
Fujiwara indicated that he believes such matters should be dealt with cautiously.
The LDP, meanwhile, issued a statement describing the result as “very regrettable.” The party said it hopes the Great Sasuke realizes that his actions threw “the assembly and the general public into confusion for roughly two months.”
It added that he should voluntarily remove his mask when taking part in public activities.
The Great Sasuke established the first local wrestling organization in Japan, Michinoku Pro Wrestling (Northeastern Wrestling), in 1993.
After his election, he stepped down as the group’s leader, stating that, other than participating in actual wrestling matches, he wants to devote his time to his assembly duties.
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