Shinzo Abe assassination: Japanese head to polls in grief and disbelief

The Guardian – By Justin McCurry – Sat 9 Jul 2022

Prime minister Fumio Kishida warns violence will not be tolerated in defiant speech after the murder of former leader.

Many Japanese voters will go to the polls on Sunday with a heavy heart, but also with a sense of quiet defiance, as they cast their ballots just two days after Shinzo Abe, the country’s most influential politician of modern times, was shot dead while making a campaign speech.

As the country struggled to come to terms with the first assassination of a current or former leader for almost 90 years, officials in the Liberal Democratic party (LDP), which Abe dominated for a decade, insisted his death would not derail the democratic process.

“We absolutely must not tolerate violence during an election to suppress free speech,” the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, told hundreds of supporters in central Japan on the eve of the upper house elections, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

This, though, will be an election like no other in recent times, taking place in the immediate aftermath of a crime that will reverberate in the public consciousness well beyond Sunday.

While media pundits constructed largely benign versions of Abe’s divisive political legacy, questions swirled around the circumstances leading to his death, at 67, minutes into a campaign address in front of a railway station in the western city of Nara.

On Saturday, as on the previous day, Japan was playing a waiting game, craving answers but starved of information by investigators who had their suspect in custody while Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader until he resigned in 2020, was drawing his last breaths.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police that he initially planned to attack the leader of a religious group that he blamed for bankrupting his mother and ruining his family, the Kyodo news agency said, quoting investigative sources. His mother, he said, had made several donations to the group, whose name police have not revealed, adding that he had visited several locations where Abe had given campaign speeches.

Yamagami, a 41-year-old resident of Nara, said he was also “dissatisfied” with Abe, whom he accused of promoting the group.

On Saturday a black hearse carrying the body of Abe accompanied by his wife, Akie, arrived at their home in Tokyo from the hospital where staff had battled for five hours to save his life after he was shot in the back and neck at close range. Neighbours and senior party colleagues lowered their heads as the vehicle passed by.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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