Shinzo Abe’s Body Goes Home to Tokyo; Questions Continue about Security and Shooter

A day after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a political rally, the police in Japan faced sharp questions about the adequacy of his security, even as parliamentary candidates resumed campaigning on Saturday in a sign that political life was carrying on.

Abe’s security was flawed, the police have acknowledged. Mr. Abe, one of Japan’s most prominent figures, was shot at close range, in daylight, by a gunman who walked past security guards unobstructed. Only after firing a second shot was the assailant tackled and subdued. Many people, in Japan and beyond, have asked how that could be possible.

Mr. Abe meeting with supporters last week while campaigning for his Liberal Democratic Party in Yokohama.Credit…Yoshikazu Tsuno/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tomoaki Onizuka, the head of the Nara prefectural police, said on Saturday that it was “undeniable that there were problems in the security” provided for Mr. Abe.

In Japan, where the crime rate is low and guns are difficult to come by, it has been common for politicians to mingle freely with voters. That could now change. As Prime Minister Fumio Kishida campaigned on Saturday, police officers patrolled rooftops and subjected residents to body scans.

In the hours immediately after Mr. Abe’s shooting in the city of Nara, it seemed that the campaign period — which was slated to end Saturday night — might finish early as the country wrestled with the death of one of its most powerful and influential political figures.

Sanae Takaichi, right, who served in Shinzo Abe’s administration, was among the officials bowing as Mr. Abe’s body arrived at his home in Tokyo on Saturday.Credit…Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

But on Friday evening, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in a short eulogy for Mr. Abe, announced that he intended to continue campaigning on behalf of his Liberal Democratic Party, saying that to do otherwise would be to surrender to violence.

For Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the sudden loss of Mr. Abe may present opportunities as well as perils. Credit…Pool photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno

Mr. Abe resigned as prime minister, citing health problems, in 2020. Days earlier, he had set a record for the longest uninterrupted run in office by any Japanese premier: nearly eight years. (He had also served a much shorter term in 2006-7.)

After stepping down, he wielded much behind-the-scenes influence with the governing Liberal Democratic Party, and was sometimes referred to as a “shadow shogun.” When he was shot, Mr. Abe was campaigning for one of the party’s candidates for the Upper House of Parliament in elections held Sunday.

As Japanese voters went to the polls on Sunday, Mr. Abe, was still a guiding political force and his party’s vision for the future.

Japan Votes Today

Many of Mr. Abe’s goals, like bolstering military spending and revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution, are still central to the Liberal Democratic Party’s platform.

Even before the assassination, the Liberal Democrats, along with Komeito, their longtime partner in the governing coalition, had been expected to win a majority of the seats up for grabs in the Upper House on Sunday. If Mr. Abe’s death results in the additional sympathy votes that some analysts expect, the coalition could gain a two-thirds supermajority in Parliament.

Technically, at least, that would give it the power to achieve Mr. Abe’s most cherished goal: amending the clause in the Constitution imposed by postwar American occupiers that renounces war, and thus opening the door for Japan to become a military power capable of global leadership.

New York Times and CNN