Tributes and condolences continue to come in from around the world, for Japan, following the fatal shooting of the country’s former Prime minister, Shinzo Abe, while he was out on the campaign trail, for the parliamentary elections, now underway in Japan.
The gunman, officially identified, as 41 year old Tetsuya Yamagami, was tackled to the ground, by security forces, and disarmed of a homemade gun. Several other improvised weapons and explosives were later found at the suspect’s home, prompting police to advise nearby residents to evacuate the area.
The former Prime minister, was giving a speech on the Street, in the city of Nara, about 300 miles, from the Capital, Tokyo, when the gunman shot at him twice, from behind.
Mr Abe is said to have collapsed, with shocked onlookers, screaming in horror. He was conscious when he was airlifted to hospital, but doctors were unable to save him. According to the hospital, Mr Abe had suffered two bullet wounds to the neck, and had damage to his heart.
Yamagami, who is a former member of the Japanese military, admitted to shooting Mr Abe, because, he said, he held a grudge against a group, with which he believed Mr Abe was involved.
Reacting before Mr Abe’s death was confirmed, Japan’s Prime minister, Fumio Kishida, condemned what he called a “barbaric” attack, in “strongest terms.”
“It is barbaric and malicious and it cannot be tolerated…an act of brutality that happened during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable.”
Mr Abe’s killing, will come as a shock to a nation where such incidents are almost unknown.
Gun violence is a rare occurrence in Japan. The country has some of the tightest gun regulations in the world. Hand guns are banned. Air rifles and shotguns are allowed, under licence, but with applicants, having to undergo strict examinations, and mental health tests. There were six gun related deaths in 2014, compared to almost 44,000, in the United States of America, in the same year.
Incidences of political violence are also virtually unknown in the country. Any such killing would be a terrible shock to the Japanese, the shock will be heightened, because of the identity of the victim.
Even after stepping down from the premiership in 2020, for health reasons, Shinzo Abe remained a major political figure not only in Japan, but in the world. He was Japan’s longest serving Prime minister, twice leading his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to victory.
Around the world, as well as in Japan, he became known for a string of radical, sometimes controversial policies, notably an economic policy, that became known as ‘Abenomics’, after the man himself.
Abenomics was based upon “three arrows”, monetary easing, from the Bank of Japan, fiscal stimulus, through government spending, and structural reforms.
The declared aim at the time, was to “jolt the economy out of the suspended animation has gripped it for more than two decades…” His policies were credited with pulling Japan out of a recession, kickstarting growth.
He also led Japan as it sought to recover from the earthquake, and resulting tsunami, which left 20,000 dead, and led to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor.
In Japan, Abe will also be remembered as a Conservative leader, who led nationalist calls to change Japan’s pacifist constitution, drafted by the United States of America, following Japan’s defeat, by the allied powers, so it can be a “normal country.” Many Japanese opposed to what they regarded as his militaristic stance.
He was able to tentatively inch towards his preferred military policy, for Japan, when in 2015, Parliament approved a change that would allow Japan to mobilise troops overseas, in its own defence, and that of allies under attack. But his greater ambitions of changing the constitution, to reshape Japan’s military remains unfulfilled.
For all that however, his legacy is as one of the most respected national and global political leaders.