Mourners throng in Abe’s wake as his party scores grim election victory in Japan

  • Ruling coalition increases majority in upper house vote
  • Hundreds Pay Tribute to Former Prime Minister Killed in Temple
  • Abe was shot on Friday in a crime that stunned the nation
  • Controversial church claims suspect’s mother is a follower

TOKYO/NARA, July 11 (Reuters) – Mourners flocked to a Tokyo temple to pay their respects to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated on Monday as his assassination overshadowed the ruling party’s election victory that he had dominated.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is lucky to consolidate his own power after Sunday’s election gains, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen were among the hundreds to follow Abe, three days after he was shot dead in of a campaign rally.

A private funeral for Abe, who stepped down in 2020 and was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, is scheduled for Tuesday.

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“There is a deep sense of grief over his loss,” Yellen told reporters outside the temple, where she placed incense in Abe’s honor and greeted his family.

“Prime Minister Abe was a visionary leader and he made Japan stronger…I know his legacy will live on,” she added.

Abe’s shooting shocked a nation where political violence and gun crime are rare.

The suspected killer, arrested at the scene and identified by police as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother had made a “huge donation”, Kyodo news agency said. citing investigators.

The Unification Church, a controversial group known for its mass marriages and devoted followers, said on Monday that the suspect’s mother was one of its members. Read more

Neither Abe nor Yamagami were members of the church, said Tomihiro Tanaka, president of its Japanese branch, adding that she would cooperate with police if asked to do so. Read more

Reuters was unable to immediately contact Yamagami’s mother and could not determine whether she belonged to other religious organizations.

DARK VICTORY

In elections held on Sunday, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ruling coalition partner extended their majority in the upper house of parliament. With a majority already in place in the lower house, what would have been a party atmosphere at PLD headquarters under usual circumstances turned grim. Read more

A moment of silence for Abe was offered in his memory, and Kishida’s face remained grim as he pinned rosettes next to the names of the winning candidates on a board as a symbol of their victory.

Abe’s death has drawn condolences from world leaders, from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Kishida during a brief layover on Monday to offer messages of support on behalf of President Joe Biden.

Vice President William Lai became the highest ranking Taiwanese official to visit Japan in five decades as he made a private trip to Tokyo to pay his respects. Read more

In the aftermath, a line of black sedans, many with diplomatic plates, dropped off dignitaries and their families at Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple, where the body of the former prime minister lay.

Dressed in black, some of those gathered wiped their eyebrows as they lined up under the steps leading to the temple in the sultry evening air.

Part of the temple was also open to members of the public who thronged to lay flowers. “I’m so sad that a prime minister who devoted himself to Japan died this way,” said Naoya Okamoto, a 28-year-old construction worker.

“He was the prime minister who once again demonstrated a strong Japan to the world.”

PARTY INFLUENCE

Abe remained influential in the LDP even after he resigned in 2020 citing health issues.

The LDP and its junior partner Komeito won 76 of the 125 seats in the chamber, up from 69 previously. The LDP alone won 63 seats, down from 55, to win a majority of the seats in contention, although it alone did not reach a simple majority.

With no elections scheduled for three years, Kishida, an Abe protege, now has an unusually long breathing space to try to implement his own agenda. This includes increasing defense spending and overhauling Japan’s pacifist constitution – a long-held dream of Abe. Read more

Abe led the largest faction within the PLD, and analysts said his death could lead to potential unrest within the party that could challenge Kishida’s control.

Kishida told a press conference that he would address difficult issues that Abe was unable to resolve, such as the revision of the constitution, adding that he hoped there could be talks on the subject during the next session of parliament.

“We have gained strength from the voters for a stable government of this nation,” Kishida told a news conference.

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Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Nara and Chang-ran Kim, Mariko Katsumura, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Andrea Shalal in Tokyo; Written by Elaine Lies, Simon Cameron-Moore and John Geddie; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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