Japan Mourns Slain Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

France 24


A steady stream of mourners visited the scene of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's assassination in the western city of Nara on Saturday as a motorcade carrying the late leader's body arrived in the capital, Tokyo.


Japan's longest-serving modern leader was shot while making a campaign speech on Friday morning by a 41-year-old man, in a deed decried by the political establishment as an attack on democracy itself.


"I'm just shocked that this kind of thing happened in Nara," Natsumi Niwa, a 50-year-old housewife, said after offering flowers with her 10-year-old son near the scene of the killing at a downtown train station.


Abe, a conservative and architect of the "Abenomics" policies aimed at reflating the Japanese economy, inspired the name of her son, Masakuni, with his rallying cry of Japan as a "beautiful nation," Niwa said. "Kuni" means nation in Japanese.


A hearse carrying the late leader's body was seen entering his Tokyo residence on Saturday, while senior members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, dressed in black, lined up to pay their respects.


A night vigil will be held on Monday, with Abe's funeral to take place on Tuesday, attended by close friends, Japanese media said. There was no immediate word on any public memorial service.



Abe's 'unfulfilled goal'

Campaigning resumed on the final day of electioneering before polling for the upper house of parliament, which is expected to deliver victory to the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege.


Kishida was back on the campaign trail visiting regional constituencies, the Mainichi newspaper reported, after making an emergency return to Tokyo on Friday in the wake of the shooting.


Abe's killing "heightens the prospect for stronger turnout and greater support for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)," Eurasia Group analysts including David Boling wrote in a note.


A strong election performance "could catalyze Kishida to push for Abe's unfulfilled goal of amending Japan's constitution to allow for a stronger role for the military,” James Brady, vice president at advisory firm Teneo, wrote in a note.


The LDP, where Abe retained considerable influence, had already been expected to gain seats before the assassination. The lawmaker, 67, served twice as prime minister, stepping down citing ill health on both occasions.


"His health was improving so I was hoping he would have a third term," said 49-year-old Tatsuya Futami in Nara. "He was still young as a politician – it's a great shame."



Security questioned

Abe, the scion of a political family who became Japan's youngest postwar premier, was rushed to a Nara hospital following the shooting. He did not regain consciousness and was pronounced dead five-and-a-half hours after the late-morning attack.


His death has raised questions about security for public figures in Japan, where politicians commonly make direct appeals to voters outside train stations and supermarkets during campaigning season.


Police are scrambling to establish details of the motive and method of Abe's killer.


Kishida spoke on Saturday with President Joe Biden, who expressed his condolences and praised Abe's leadership, NHK reported.


President Biden said he was "stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened" by Abe's assassination.


"This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him," Biden said in a statement. "Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy.


"The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief. I send my deepest condolences to his family," Biden added.


Abe was key in the creation of the Quad grouping aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The other members, the United States, India, and Australia, expressed shock at the assassination in a joint statement.


"We will honour Prime Minister Abe's memory by redoubling our work towards a peaceful and prosperous region," the statement said.


"Japan lost a great prime minister who dedicated his life to his country and worked for the stability of our world," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in a tweet, addressing France's condolences to the Japanese people.


This article, originally published by France 24, is republished here with permission via DISCO Content Marketplace.


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Image Sources:

--The Joint Chiefs of Staff (Flickr, Creative Commons)

--Government of Japan (Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

--LBJ Library (Flick, Creative Commons)


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