Abe, 67, was shot dead in the city of Nara on Friday as he gave a speech in support of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidates in a murder that stunned a nation with one of the highest gun crime rates the lowest in the world.
The country’s leaders had urged the public to go to the polls on Sunday, denouncing the murder as an attack on democracy.
“We must absolutely defend free and fair elections, which are the basis of democracy,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, adding that the party would “continue our electoral campaign as planned with the firm belief that we will never give in to violence”. .”
While the upper house is the less powerful of the two houses in Japan’s parliament, the victory solidifies Kishida’s political base and could help him push forward key policy issues, including possibly revising Japan’s pacifist constitution – a cause Abe had championed for his nearly nine years. in power and which would require a two-thirds majority vote of both houses of parliament, followed by a popular referendum.
Hours after polls closed on Sunday, Kishida told NHK: “The election is on the line because of the violence, but we have to finish it. Now that we’ve finished it, it’s very meaningful. — moving forward, we must continue to work hard to protect democracy.”
The suspect behind the assassination
The election results come as the investigation continues into the suspect behind Abe’s murder, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who was arrested at the site moments after the shooting.
Police say he is suspected of murder but has not been formally charged.
Yamagami said he resented a certain group, with which he believed Abe had ties and with which his mother had been involved, according to Japanese state broadcaster NHK and news agency Kyodo, citing the police.
Nara police said on Monday that Yamagami may have carried out a test firing in the early hours of Thursday morning against the building of “a certain group” in Nara prefecture, using the homemade gun with which he then killed Abe.
Investigators said a vehicle believed to be Yamagami’s car was seen on security cameras near where Thursday’s test shooting allegedly took place. Police declined to name the group and security footage has not been released.
CNN was unable to independently confirm which group the suspect was referring to.
The suspect’s mother was a member of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church, Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the church’s Japan office, said in a statement on Monday. communicated.
The suspect was never a member of the church, while his mother was a member and attended church events about once a month, the statement said. Tanaka added that the organization would cooperate with investigators if asked to do so.
Yamagami told police he watched YouTube videos to help him make his weapons, NHK reported Monday, citing investigators. He practiced shooting weapons in the mountains days before the murder, and police found wooden planks riddled with bullet holes in the suspect’s vehicle, according to NHK.
Photos from Friday’s scene show what appeared to be a weapon with two cylindrical metal barrels wrapped in black tape.
Yamagami also told investigators he originally intended to kill Abe using explosives at an event in Okayama prefecture, a three-hour drive from Nara, NHK reported – but he allegedly changed. his plan due to potential difficulties in participating in the event.
As a national leader, Abe was affiliated with several groups, organizations and causes, as is common in any democracy. It is unclear whether Abe was linked to any group the suspect was talking about.
When asked if the suspect was working alone or with someone else, police said they were investigating all possibilities.
A nation in mourning
The shooting shocked Japan, a country long considered one of the safest in the world.
A private wake took place in Tokyo on Monday and a funeral on Tuesday, according to Abe’s office. The office added that they would hold a ceremony to mourn him, although the time and location have yet to be decided.
The office has set up an altar for the public to lay flowers in its office in Yamaguchi, and will add space for incense tomorrow, he said.
In the days following Abe’s death, mourners in Nara gathered and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial near where he was shot.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, having served in office from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020, when he resigned for health reasons. But even after his resignation, Abe remained an influential figure in the country’s political landscape and continued to campaign for the LDP.
“He’s been such an important figure in Japanese politics for so long…I think everyone expected him to continue wielding enormous power in the years to come,” said researcher Tobias Harris. principal for Asia at the Center for American Progress.
“So the reality that he doesn’t wield that power, that he’s gone and left a power vacuum in the LDP is…a much bigger shock even than the mere fact of his death. for the general public.”
Messages of mourning and remembrance poured in from past and present world leaders, many of whom worked with Abe – a highly influential figure across the Asia-Pacific region who defined politics for a generation – during his terms in office. power.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Tokyo on Monday, meeting with Kishida to pay his respects and offer his condolences to the Japanese people.
“I am here because the United States and Japan are more than allies; we are friends. And when one friend is in pain, the other friend shows up,” Blinken told reporters on Monday. He added that Abe was “a visionary who took relations with the United States to new heights.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and several senior government officials also visited the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei on Monday to pay their respects to Abe and convey her “sincere condolences” to the Abe family. Taiwan also flies flags at half mast to mark Abe’s contributions to the island.
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