Aftershocks following Abe’s death . . .
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, the party of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot and killed on Friday, won a majority in the House of Councilors election in the National Diet on Sunday alongside coalition partner Komeito. Of the 125 seats contested, the ruling coalition won 76, bringing its total number of seats in the Upper House to 146 of 248. In a country where firearms laws are strict and gun violence extremely rare, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot by an assailant with a homemade gun during a campaign speech in Nara on July 8.
Legacies that linger . . .
The election results provide Prime Minister Kishida Fumio with a renewed mandate to continue in his role until the next general election in 2025. It was also a win for politicians supportive of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution – a long-held goal of former Prime Minister Abe. The pro-constitutional amendment camp, which includes the LDP-Komeito coalition and two other parties, now has a two-thirds majority in the Upper House. This will allow Kishida to push ahead with plans to amend the constitution’s Article 9, in which Japan renounces war and the maintenance of war potential. But the change is far from a done deal, and moving forward will still require significant political capital. Even if the government approves the move, changes to the country’s pacifist constitution require a majority in a national referendum, with Japanese voters remaining deeply divided.
Tensions and divisions . . .
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and the leader of the largest faction in the LDP. As such, his death leaves a political vacuum. While political frictions did emerge between Abe and Kishida, it remains unclear how much Kishida’s policies will deviate from Abe’s vision. News of Abe’s death was also met with right-wing nationalist posts and misinformation about the shooter’s identity on social media, some of which targeted ethnic minorities and other marginalized populations in Japan. These tensions continue to create divisions within Japan and amongst neighbouring countries, especially in light of Abe’s downplaying of Japan’s wartime atrocities. Following Sunday’s elections, the threads to watch include the internal distribution of power within the LDP and changes to domestic and international security interests under Kishida’s reinvigorated leadership.
- Center for Strategic & International Studies: Japan’s Upper House election: Kishida clears another hurdle
- The New Yorker: How Shinzo Abe sought to rewrite Japanese history
- The New York Times: Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, dies at 67