Shinzo Abe’s assassination: Japan’s election vote declared “defense of democracy”

Abe was shot dead in broad daylight on Friday in the central city of Nara, during a speech in support of a local candidate from his Liberal Democratic Party in an assassination that resonated around the world.
The killing also raised questions from the local police chief about the lack of security around Abe at the time of the shooting. recognition of “problems” as well as public broadcaster NHK reporting that the suspect had originally planned to use explosives.

With Japan in mourning, a wave of additional support could amplify what was already expected as a comfortable victory for Abe’s party in Sunday’s upper house elections, observers say.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – who described Abe’s murder as “a cowardly and barbarous act” – urged the public to come to the vote, viewing the elections as a defense of democracy.

“We must absolutely defend free and fair elections, which are the foundation of democracy. We will continue our election campaign as planned, with the firm conviction that we will never succumb to violence,” Kishida said on Friday.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Sunday local time and will close at most of the 46,017 precincts at 8 p.m. local time. There are 545 candidates competing for more than 125 seats.

Murder suspect speaks

police arrested 41 year old Tetsuya Yamagami at the scene of the shooting on Friday. He is said to be suspected of murder, but he has not been formally charged.

Yamagami told investigators that he had originally intended to kill Abe with explosives at an event in Okayama, a prefecture three hours from Nara, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported Sunday.

“I thought about killing the former prime minister (Okayama) there, but I saw that there were clearance procedures at the entrance, and I felt that it would be difficult to get inside,” Yamagami told investigators, according to NHK.

Who is Tetsuya Yamagami?  What we know about the man suspected of shooting Shinzo Abe

Yamagami was taken to the Nara District Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday morning.

Nara Prefectural Police told CNN on Saturday that security cameras showed the suspect leaving Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara on Friday after boarding a train to an event in Abe.

The assassination raised questions about Abe’s security level.

Nara Police Chief Tomoaki Onizuka said on Saturday that he “cannot deny there were problems” with Abe’s security and that he “accepts[s] liability for non-performance.

“After the incident was first reported…it was the pinnacle of guilt and regret I have experienced in my 27 years in law enforcement,” said an agitated Onizuka.

“I feel the weight of my responsibility.”

Elections are coming

Campaigning was suspended on Friday after Abe’s assassination, but politicians resumed campaigning on Saturday.

While the upper house is the less influential of the two houses of the Japanese Diet – and could be overruled by the lower house on vital matters – a strong performance from the LDP could help Kishida push through an agenda that includes increased defense spending and possibly revisiting Japan’s pacifist policies. . constitution. Both of these reasons were defended by Abe before his death.

“The ruling LDP-Komeito coalition was already well on its way to a solid victory,” James Brady of consultancy Teneo said in a note published by Reuters. “A wave of sympathy votes now could increase the chances of winning.”

Brady added that in the coming months, the government will “definitely be looking to strengthen internal security.”

Polls taken before Abe’s death predicted the LDP would win at least 60 of the 125 seats contested on Sunday, compared to the 55 seats it now holds, Reuters said, allowing it to retain the majority it has with its junior partner in the Komeito coalition.

Reaching 69 seats in the upper house would give the LDP a majority, a threshold considered a stretch before Abe’s assassination, and possibly boost its ability to advance its agenda, Reuters reported.

The world is in mourning

After Abe’s death, mourners in Japan gather and lay flowers at a makeshift memorial near Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, near the site where the former leader was shot dead.

But the repercussions of the assassination were felt far beyond Japan, where there was widespread shock that the former prime minister, set the policy for a generation can be shot at close range in a country with one of lowest gun crime rates in the world.

Presidents, prime ministers and other international leaders expressed outrage and regret at the assassination.

Body of slain former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe returns to Tokyo as police interrogate weapon suspect

The US State Department said on Saturday that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will travel to Tokyo on Monday to pay his respects to the Japanese people.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken would also meet with senior Japanese officials, adding that “the US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and has never been stronger.”

Abe’s funeral will take place on Monday and Tuesday, his office told CNN, with a wake on Monday followed by a memorial service on Tuesday.

The funeral will be organized by his widow Aki Abe at a shrine in Tokyo, with attendance limited to family members and people close to the former prime minister, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said.

Chie Kobayashi of CNN, Pierre Meylan and Larry Register contributed to this report.