Political violence, and gun violence in general, is extremely rare in post-war Japan, so Friday’s shooting of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe deeply shocked the Japanese public, writes Craig Mark.
Japan is reeling from the assassination of its longest-serving former prime minister, Shinzo Abe. He was campaigning for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for Upper House elections scheduled for Sunday in the western Japanese city of Nara when he was shot from behind with an apparently homemade sawed-off shotgun .
The alleged assailant, apparently a 42-year-old man, was arrested at the scene. There is no known motive at this time, but reports say the suspect is a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces.
Abe was seen lying bleeding on the ground, before being airlifted to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Political violence, and gun violence in general, is extremely rare in post-war Japan, so this incident deeply shocked the Japanese public. Gun ownership is strictly regulated and primarily restricted to registered hunters.
There have been occasional shootings by organized crime groups, usually targeting each other, but Japan has always had low violent crime rates.
Far-right groups have been responsible for a few attacks on politicians in the post-war period: in 1990, the mayor of Nagasaki, Hitoshi Motoshima, was shot and wounded; and in 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, leader of the opposition Japanese Socialist Party, was stabbed and murdered.
In the prewar era, Democratic politicians came under frequent attack and intimidation from militarists. Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was assassinated by Imperial Navy officers in a coup attempt on May 15, 1932.
Abe’s political legacy
Abe, 67, was the grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi and was a descendant of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in government for most of the post-war period. His first term as Prime Minister lasted about a year, from 2006 to 2007, before he resigned due to ulcerative colitis following his party’s poor performance in the 2007 Upper House elections.
He made a remarkable political comeback in 2012, taking over the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party and winning the December general election. Abe won national elections in 2014 and 2017, cementing his power over weak and divided opposition parties.
He introduced his flagship economic policy, “Abenomics”, based on massive deficit spending, quantitative easing and attempted structural reforms. However, the two-time increase in the consumption tax has undermined these attempts to pull the Japanese economy out of its decades-long stagnation.
A member of the ultra-nationalist lobby group Nippon Kaigi, Abe led a sweeping transformation of Japanese foreign and defense policy, reinterpreting the pacifist Article 9 of the Constitution, to allow for greater overseas deployment of the Self-Defense Forces. .
His government increased defense spending every year, and in 2015 the Diet (Japan’s parliament) passed controversial security bills that allowed the Self-Defense Forces to participate in collective defense operations with countries. allies, particularly the United States, but potentially also Australia, India and the United Kingdom.
Abe initially mooted the concept of the Quad Security Partnership between Japan, the United States, Australia and India, and in 2016 formalized the phrase “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” as the main goal of the policy. of Japan to preserve rules-based liberalism led by the United States. order in international relations.
His longevity in office has seen him become one of the world’s most experienced leaders, and he has used his foreign policy background to regularly manage the US alliance, treating erratic President Donald Trump with “golf diplomacy”.
Abe was able to maintain fairly stable relations with neighboring China, Japan’s largest trading partner, despite the long-running territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands (claimed as the Daioyus by China). Relations with South Korea remained poor, however, due to disputes over historical issues arising from Japanese colonial rule over Korea.
A member of the largest conservative faction in the Liberal Democratic Party, Abe’s dominance over the party and Japanese politics began to erode when the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in elections for the Upper House of 2019. A long string of nepotism scandals has also shaken his public reputation; investigations by prosecutors led to charges against some of Abe’s associates and political staff, although Abe himself was never charged.
While Japan has weathered the COVID pandemic reasonably well, largely through cooperation with publicly recommended health measures, Abe’s government has come under increasing criticism for a range of responses. inept at the pandemic as the economy entered a deep recession. Abe’s poor health returned and he resigned in August 2020, being replaced the following month by his former chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga.
Abe remained in the Diet and became the leader of the Hosoda faction last year, after backing his former foreign minister and current prime minister Fumio Kishida in the race to become the party’s leader.
In response to this tragedy, the Liberal Democratic Party asked its candidates to stop campaigning, and opposition party politicians also announced that they would suspend campaign activities.
Kishida has returned to the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor the situation, but as of this writing there has been no announcement regarding voting arrangements for the Upper House election, which is due to take place on Sunday. July 10.
In pre-election polls, the Liberal Democratic Party was expected to win a comfortable majority, in partnership with its junior partner, the Komeito party.
The 2022 Upper House election will now remain in the shadow of one of the most disturbing events in modern Japanese political history.
Craig Mark, Professor, Faculty of International Studies, Kyoritsu Women’s University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.