Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 67, has been injured, apparently by gunshots, while offering an electoral rally on a street in the town of Nara, in the center of his country. The influential politician, taken to hospital by ambulance and helicopter, was in cardiac arrest when he was evacuated, according to the Kyodo news agency. The alleged attacker has been arrested, according to the Japanese television network NHK.
The former Japanese chief executive, who ruled from 2012 to September 2020 before leaving power for health reasons, was making a speech as part of the campaign for the Upper House elections when attendees heard the sound of what seemed like at least two shots and they saw him fall, bleeding from the chest, around 11:30 local time (4:30 Spanish peninsular time).
The Japanese Police have reported that after the incident they have captured a man whom they are interrogating as a suspect in attempted murder. The detainee has been identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41 years old. According to the first versions of witnesses, cited by the Japanese media, the attacker fired two shots at Abe from behind and from a position slightly to the left.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno has described the attack as a “barbaric act” that “cannot be tolerated”, confirming the attack on Abe in statements to the press.
Until now, it had been common for political events in Japan to be held in the middle of the street and under low levels of security, given the low levels of violence in the country. You have to go back to the 1930s to find a case of armed violence against a Japanese politician.
Despite formally retiring, Abe still held immense influence in Japanese politics, dominated by his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which led the country for most of the postwar era. After leaving the government, he was replaced by his spokesman and cabinet secretary Yoshihide Sugawara, who in turn resigned last year and was replaced by the current prime minister, Fumio Kishida.
A former protégé of Abe, Kishida saw the Senate elections as an opportunity to demonstrate his control of the LDP and emerge from the shadow of his predecessor. The current prime minister, who was in turn on an electoral tour, has canceled his planned events for today and has returned to Tokyo.
During his eight years in office – his second as prime minister, after a brief one-year term beginning in 2006 – Abe tried to boost Japan’s economy, stagnant since the 1990s, with a recipe informally dubbed “Abenomics” and based on fiscal spending and loose monetary policy.
Considered a “hawk” in foreign policy, the former prime minister boosted defense spending and in 2014 his government approved a reinterpretation of the postwar pacifist Constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight outside their national territory, for the first time since the end of World War II.
He was one of the great promoters of Tokyo’s candidacy for the 2020 Olympic Games. His dream of presiding over the celebrations was frustrated by the outbreak of the covid pandemic, which forced the sporting event to be postponed for a year.
In a tweet, the US ambassador to Tokyo, Rahm Emanuel, declared himself “saddened and shocked by the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the United States. The US Government and the American people pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the Japanese people.”