Japan holds crucial election under the shadow of Shinzo Abe assassination

Tokyo -- Japanese voters went to polls Sunday under the shadow of the assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was being a speech-maker during campaign speeches.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
10 July 2022 Sunday 05:21
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Japan holds crucial election under the shadow of Shinzo Abe assassination

Tokyo -- Japanese voters went to polls Sunday under the shadow of the assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was being a speech-maker during campaign speeches. Abe's ruling party seemed to be on the verge of a major victory.

Police in western Japan sent an alleged assassin for further investigation to the polling station while people were voting. One day earlier, a high-ranking regional police officer acknowledged security flaws that allowed the attacker so close to the former Japanese leader and fired a bullet.

Half of Japan's upper house, which is the weaker of Japan's two-chamber parliament, was polled in a country still reeling from the shock, sadness, and fear that Abe's shooting caused.

Abe was shot in Nara, Japan on Friday. He was airlifted to hospital but succumbed to blood loss. A former member of Japan’s navy was arrested by police on the spot. A homemade gun was confiscated by police and several more were later discovered at his apartment.

Tetsuya Yamagami told investigators that he was motivated by Abe's rumored connections to an organization he disliked, but had no issue with the former leader. According to media reports, the man was afflicted by hatred towards a religious group his mother was obsessed with. This led to the bankrupture of a family business.

Abe's corpse was taken by Akie in a black hearse, accompanied by Akie's wife. He returned to Shibuya, Tokyo's most upscale neighborhood, where many mourners paid their respects, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishhida and other top officials of the party. In the coming days, his wake and funeral will be held.

On Saturday, Nara's prefectural police chief Tomoaki Onizuka said Abe's assassination was his "greatest regret" during his 27-year career. He stated that security problems were not in doubt and that he was taking the incident seriously. He will also review the guarding procedures.

The nation was shocked by Abe's assassination just before Sunday's parliamentary elections. It raised concerns about whether adequate security was provided to the former prime minister.

Many observers who saw the video of the attack noticed a lack in attention behind Abe while he spoke.

Experts said Abe was more vulnerable standing at ground level than atop a campaign car, which is the standard for premier-class politicians. However, this option was apparently unavailable due to his hastily organized visit to Nara.

Professor of crisis management at Nihon University Mitsuru Fukuda said that police saw Abe looking forward and not paying much attention to Abe. He also noted that Abe was approaching Abe unnoticed until he fired his first shot.

Fukuda stated, "Clearly there were issues."

Abe was only inches away from the first shot, which hit an electoral vehicle. The second shot, which he took from his upper left arm, caused massive bleeding and even death.

Fukuda stated that elections offer voters and politicians the chance to interact, as "political terror" is very rare in Japan postwar. This is a crucial democratic process. However, Abe's assassination could lead to tighter security at crowd events such as sports games or campaigns.

When party leaders were going out to make their final appeals, they found that there was no longer any fist-touches - a COVID-19 era option to handshakes - or other close-proximity friendly gestures.

Sunday's election took on a new meaning after Abe's assassination. All political leaders stressed the importance of free speech, and pledged not to resort to violence against democracy.

Kishida stated that violence should not be used to silence free speech during his last rally in Niigata, a northern city on Saturday amid increased security. "We must show that our democracy will not be beaten down by violence,"

According to Asahi newspaper Yamagami worked as a contract worker in a Kyoto warehouse operating a forklift. Yamagami was quiet at first but he began to ignore rules, which led to arguments with his colleagues. In April, he quit work due to health issues. Asahi was told by his neighbor that he had never met Yamagami. However, he did recall hearing noises similar to a saw several times at night during the month.

Japan is well-known for its strict gun laws. According to the most recent government crime paper, there were only 21 gun-related criminal charges in Japan in 2020. Experts warn that recent attacks were involving gasoline and other consumer goods, which could increase the risk of ordinary citizens being involved in mass attacks.

Media surveys had forecast a major victory for the Liberal Democratic Party in a fractured and weak opposition. However, Abe's assassination could result in a larger victory than Kishida’s modest goal to win the house majority.

Abe was still the prime minister of Japan, and he led its largest faction. Experts believe that his absence could alter the power balance of the ruling party, which has virtually ruled Japan postwar since 1955's foundation.

Fukuda said that "This could prove to be a turning point for the LDP" over its divisive policies regarding gender equality, same-sex maritals, and other issues Abe-backed ultraconservatives with paternalistic values had resisted.

Because Abe made fundamental changes, Japan's current security and diplomatic stance will not change. Many saw him as a divisive figure because of his ultra-nationalist views, and realistic policy actions.

Abe quit two years ago, blaming the recurrence and severity of his ulcerative colitis. He admitted that he regretted not completing many of his goals, including the Japanese abduction by North Korea years ago and a territorial dispute between Russia and Japan, as well as a revision of Japan's war-renouncing Constitution, which many conservatives consider humiliating due to poor public support.

Abe was raised to follow the example of his grandfather, Nobusukekishi, who was also the former Prime Minister. His political rhetoric was often about making Japan a normal and beautiful nation, with a stronger military and security alliance with America and a bigger role in international affairs.

At 52 years old, he became Japan's youngest prime minster in 2006. His overly nationalistic first tenure ended abruptly in 2006, due to his health. He then began six years of leadership changes.

In 2012, he returned to power, promising to revive the country and lift its economy from its current deflationary slump. His "Abenomics" formula, which includes fiscal stimulus, monetary ease, and structural reforms, was his second term in office. He won six national elections, and he held a firm grip on power.

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