Last Friday Japan was rocked by the sudden assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 67, who was delivering a speech in support of candidates from his Liberal Democratic Party when he was shot.
Following Abe’s assassination, Japan’s leaders urged the public to get out and vote on Sunday while denouncing his death as an attack on democracy.
“We must absolutely defend free and fair elections, which are the basis of democracy. Our party will proceed with our election campaign as planned with the firm conviction that we will never yield to violence,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. On Sunday the conservative LDP won at least 63 seats in Japan’s parliament, more than half of the 125 seats available. While voting has been completed, official results have not yet been released by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication.
This victory has solidified the LDP as the remaining power in Japan, which could help Kishida and other leaders revise Japan’s constitution; a cause that Abe had discussed in detail during his nine years in office.
“The election has been at stake because of violence but we have to complete it. Now we’ve completed it, it’s quite meaningful – moving forward, we have to continue to work hard to protect democracy.”
The investigation into Abe’s assassination is still underway. 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested at the site of the assassination moments after the shooting. He’s currently suspected for the murder, but no official charges have been made yet.
Yamagami revealed that he held a grudge against a certain group which he believed Abe was tied to, according to Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, and Kyodo News Agency, who spoke with the police.
Nara police said on Monday that “Yamagami may have carried out a test shooting in the early hours of Thursday morning against the building of a certain group in Nara prefecture, using the homemade gun he later killed Abe with.”
According to NHK, “Yamagami told police he watched YouTube videos to help him make his weapons. He practiced shooting the weapons in the mountains days before the killing, and police found wooden boards with bullet holes in the suspect’s vehicle.” Tobias Harris, a senior fellow for Asia At The Center for American Progress recently spoke on what Abe’s death meant for the nation.
“Abe was such a towering figure in Japanese politics for so long … I think everyone expected that for years to come he would continue to wield tremendous power. So the reality that he’s not there … and left a power vacuum within the LDP is a much bigger shock than even his death.”
Abe was the longest-serving prime minister in Japan, having held office from 2006 to 2007 and then again from 2012 to 2020, when he stepped down due to health concerns. Even after he resigned, however, Abe continued to be an influential figure in Japan’s political landscape, and he consistently campaigned for the LDP.
“I’m here because the United States and Japan are more than allies; we are friends. And when one friend is hurting, the other friend shows up. Abe was a visionary who took relations with the US to new heights,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Japan on Monday.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, and several senior government officials, also visited Japan to pay tribute to Abe and to convey her “deepest condolences to the Abe family.”
Messages of mourning and celebration of life have come from world leaders everywhere, many of which from individuals who have worked with Abe during his terms in power. He’s regarded as a highly influential figure throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region who “defined politics for a generation.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.