TOKYO: Japanese voters voted in an upper house election on Sunday, just two days after former Prime Minister Shinzo abe was assassinated while on the campaign trail.
The election, which is expected to see Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party increase its majority, was overshadowed by the murder.
But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other politicians insisted the shock killing would not stop the democratic process.
“We must never allow violence to suppress speech during elections, which are the foundation of democracy,” he said on Saturday as he campaigned across the country.
He also took the time to offer his condolences at Abe’s family home in Tokyo, where the former prime minister’s body arrived on Saturday afternoon from a hospital in the west. Japan.
Friday morning’s assassination shook the nation and sent shockwaves around the world, prompting an outpouring of sympathy even from nations with which warmonger Abe had sometimes rocky relations, such as China and South Korea. South.
The man charged with her murder, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, is in custody and told investigators he was targeting Abe because he believed the politician was linked to an unnamed organization.
Local media described the organization as religious and said that Yamagami’s family had suffered financial problems as a result of his mother’s donations to the group.
Abe was campaigning in the western Nara region for a candidate from his ruling LDP when Yamagami opened fire, and local police on Saturday acknowledged “problems” with the security plan for the high-profile figure.
With little violent crime and strict gun laws, security at Japanese countryside events is generally relaxed, although following Abe’s murder, measures have been tightened for the remaining appearances of Kishida.
Security at polling stations on Sunday remained normal. A 79-year-old man named Takao Sueki said he was voting taking into account international instability, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Looking at the world now, I think every day about how Japan is going to handle the situation,” he told AFP.
“It’s a democratic country and I despise the use of violence to eliminate someone,” he added when asked about Abe’s murder.
“I strongly believe that if people have disagreements, they should challenge them through dialogue.”
Police have promised a “thorough investigation” into what the Nara regional police chief called “custody and security issues” for Abe.
β€œI believe it is undeniable that there have been issues with custody and security arrangements for former Prime Minister Abe,” Tomoaki Onizuka told reporters on Saturday evening.
β€œIn all the years since I became a police officer in 1995, there is no greater remorse, no greater regret than this,” the police chief added in tears.
The murder of Japan’s best-known politician has drawn international condemnation, with US President Joe Biden ordering flags to be lowered to half-mast until Sunday and Chinese President Xi Jinping saying he is “deeply saddened”.
Abe’s office told AFP that a wake will be held on Monday evening, with a funeral for family and close friends only on Tuesday. Local media said the two were to be held at Tokyo’s Zozoji Temple.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Asia for meetings, will stop in Tokyo on Monday to offer his condolences in person, the State Department said.
Abe was the scion of a political family and became the country’s youngest post-war prime minister when he first took office in 2006, aged 52.
His warmongering and nationalist views were divisive, particularly his desire to reform the country’s pacifist constitution to recognize the country’s military, and he weathered a series of scandals, including allegations of cronyism.
But he has been hailed by others for his economic strategy, dubbed “Abenomics,” and his efforts to put Japan firmly on the world stage, including cultivating close ties with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
Kishida, 64, was once described as one of Abe’s favorite successors and holds a solid majority in parliament with his coalition partner Komeito.
Sunday’s vote is expected to cement that grip on power, leaving Kishida even better placed to enter a “golden three years” in which he will face no further elections.
But it faces significant political headwinds, including rising prices and energy shortages, particularly after an early summer heat wave that led to a power crisis.
Polls close at 8:00 p.m. (1100 GMT), with projected results from Japanese media expected immediately afterwards.

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