Shinzo Abe: An unusual assassination that makes the Japanese feel vulnerable | International

Abe-san, with the honorific suffix behind the name to show respect, was one of the most prominent terms on Japanese social media this Friday. The shock over the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is enormous: the last time one was assassinated was almost 90 years ago, during Japan’s radical militarism before the world war. It is not common for politicians to suffer attacks, with exceptions such as, for example, the assassination of the mayor of Nagasaki at the hands of the Japanese mafia Yakuza in 2007. In 1994, a radical right-winger tried to shoot the prime minister at the time, Morihiro Hosokawa, while he was making a speech at a hotel, but Hosokawa was unharmed. That is why the Japanese seeing Abe collapse bleeding in the middle of the street this Friday while giving a rally in the city of Nara has made them feel insecure and vulnerable.

Abe did not have the security perimeter that usually protects leaders in other countries because in Japan that deployment, at least until now, was thought unnecessary: ​​it is one of the countries in the world with the lowest crime rate. Firearms are very difficult to move around the archipelago. They are controlled to the point that their owners have to pass exams, their mental health and criminal records are checked. But whether Yamagami Tetsuya, the prime suspect in Abe’s murder, managed to buy a gun, or made one at home, remains to be seen. Tetsuya was 41 years old and had been in the Japanese army, but now he was unemployed and “dissatisfied” with Abe, he said when he was arrested.

Abe was assassinated while participating in a campaign event for the by-elections to the Upper House of the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, which will be held next Sunday. In them, the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), to which both Abe and current Prime Minister Kishida belonged, and which has always governed Japan except for two brief parentheses, hoped to revalidate its majority.

Abe led the Japanese Executive between 2012 and September 2020, and he retired at the worst of the pandemic alleging health reasons, although by then his management had been highly questioned. But he never stopped influencing politics. He was at the head of one of the PLD families, the most closely linked to the conservative right and the new Japanese nationalism, as one of its key ideologues.

He was undoubtedly the best-known Japanese politician abroad. As Oriol Farrés, an expert at CIDOB, says, we would have to go back to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [2001-2006] to find someone with so much charisma and so relevant to the rest of the world. Abe had a very clear vision, although not everyone liked him. The writer Akira Mizubayashi said that with him the ghosts of the Japanese empire were still present. Among other things, because he promoted defense spending and because his position towards his neighbors, especially towards China, was always harsh. He openly defended a position of containment towards Beijing in the Asia-Pacific maritime conflicts and opted for the United States, which is the main guarantor of Japanese security.

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His best-known legacy is the Abenomics, that three-legged plan that he launched in 2013 to get his country out of the economic and mental crisis based on monetary expansion, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms. It was a communication success, but had mixed results. Politically, Abe always defended a concept of the “free and open” Indo-Pacific hand in hand with Washington, which later led to the so-called Quad, the group formed by the United States, Japan, India and Australia. His great concern, like Joe Biden’s, was to counter Beijing’s influence in the region.

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