Yuko KatoZubaida Abdul Jalil, BBC News (Tokyo)
Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s constitutional history, was known for his hawkish foreign policy and his representative economic strategy, which became known as “Abenomics.” A highly popular and highly controversial politician, 67-year-old Abe led the Liberal Democratic Party to victory twice.
The shocking death reminded me of the violent days of prewar Japanese politics. An era when the assassination of politicians was not uncommon, if not routine. The series of assassinations of politicians was part of Japan’s history leading up to World War II.
As a popular but criticized politician, it was part of Mr Abe’s political approach to shake the public’s emotions. Abe knew from an early age that the public was not always friendly and that criticism had to be countered.
Mr Abe’s first prime ministership was controversial, a little over a year since September 2006. But in December 2012 he made an astonishing political comeback and maintained his power until September 2020, when he resigned for health reasons.
Japan was in the midst of a recession when Prime Minister Abe reached his second term. Mr Abe’s economic policies were evaluated as helping the sluggish economy regain growth.
He also led the reconstruction as Japan’s top attempt to recover from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, which caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, killing nearly 20,000 people.
Speculation flew around in 2020 as he visited the hospital frequently for examinations.When Mr. Abe announced his resignationRevealed that the chronic ulcerative colitis has recurred.
Yoshihide Suga, an ally, was appointed as his successor, but even after his retirement, Abe was regarded as an influential figure in Japanese politics.
Mr. Abe was born to a family of politicians as the son of former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe and the grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. It is a family that has a connection with Yamaguchi Prefecture and the former Choshu clan. And Mr Abe felt that it was his mission to take over the wishes of his ancestors and make Japan a strong and great country that attracted attention on the international stage.
During World War II, he respected Nobusuke Kishi, who worked to strengthen Japan’s economic control over China and Manchuria, and after the war to lay the foundation for political control by the LDP. Mr Abe’s dislike of protesters may be rooted in his respected grandfather being forced to resign after the massive 1960 anti-government protest “Anpo Protests.”
Mr. Abe was elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the first time in 1993, and became the first Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Third Koizumi Remodeling Cabinet in 2005. And in 2006 he became prime minister at the youngest age of 52 after the war.
However, a series of scandals, such as the so-called “floating pension record” problem, in which the owner of about 50 million pension records is unknown, has hit the first Abe Cabinet.
The Liberal Democratic Party suffered a big defeat in the July 2007 Upper House election, and Mr. Abe resigned in September of the same year because of his ulcerative colitis.
But then, Abe, who returned to the prime minister in 2012, said he had overcome the illness with the help of medicines.
He was reelected in 2014 and 2017 and became the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s constitutional history.
There was a wave of its popularity, but it had an influence within the LDP. The party has amended the party rules, allowing Mr Abe to serve as president for up to three consecutive terms.
Mr Abe took a hawkish position in defense and foreign policy, reiterating the importance of being an ally and partner on an equal footing with the United States and other Western countries.
This led to the long-standing goal of amending Japan’s postwar peace constitution to eventually become a “normal country.” Conservatives see the US-drafted constitution as a reminder of the humiliating defeat of the Japanese in World War II.
Under the influence of his grandfather, Mr Abe is wary of China becoming the dominant force in Asia. Japan played a sufficient role in protecting its own country and strengthened its belief that it needed to have military power.
Mr. Abe’s attitude of being nationalist and emphasizing armament has brought about a deep division in the country. Some people who value the Peace Constitution will be very cautious. On the contrary, explicit revisionism and nationalists, who had been a minority in postwar Japan for many years, supported Mr Abe and gained momentum. In postwar Japan, it has been argued loudly that it was only whispered in a whisper for a long time.
Mr Abe’s nationalist thinking has often increased tensions with China and South Korea. This was especially true after visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo in 2013, which has been the subject of controversy related to Japanese militarism before and after World War II.
Repeated worship has also frustrated Japanese leftists who believe Mr Abe is trying to fill Japan’s mass atrocity during the war.
In 2015, Mr. Abe promoted the approval of the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, in order to “prevent armed attacks against foreign countries closely related to his own country, even though his own country has not been directly attacked.” It has made it possible to mobilize the Self-Defense Forces overseas.
Mr. Abe’s big goal of constitutional amendment to officially make the SDF into a Japanese army has not been achieved yet. This problem is still causing division in Japan.
It was not possible to return the four islands off Hokkaido, which Japan calls the Northern Territories and Japan and Russia claim territorial rights, to Japan.
The close relationship with former US President Donald Trump is credited with protecting Japan from adverse US-led tariffs. On the other hand, it was decided to increase the burden on the Japanese side of USFJ expenses.
This policy became popular, and Mr Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in 2012. However, when Japan fell into recession again in the spring of 2020, it faced major challenges. After that, the economic downturn continued, raising questions about the effectiveness of Mr. Abe’s approach.
Doubts over Mr. Abe’s response to the new coronavirus infection COVID-19 also led to a further decline in popularity.
There is a criticism that the “Go To Travel” project, which was launched with the aim of promoting domestic tourism, has led to the re-emergence of the infection.
It has also been pointed out that the goals set by Abenomics, such as improving the status of working women and changing the unhealthy working culture, were not achieved.
On the international scene, it is highly evaluated that the United States under the Trump administration suddenly withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and then put together a new agreement, TPP11, by the 11 participating countries.
Mr Abe’s announcement of his resignation led to a faction conflict within the LDP. It was because Mr Abe avoided nominating his successor.
And on July 8, Mr. Abe was visiting Nara City to support the LDP candidates for the Upper House election.
During a street speech, he was shot by a 41-year-old man from the former Maritime Self-Defense Force.
According to reports such as NHK, the suspect said that he was “dissatisfied with Mr. Abe” but “not a grudge against political beliefs.” He stated that he had a grudge against a particular group and committed the crime by believing that the group was connected to former Prime Minister Abe.
Mr. Abe, who was shot from behind and injured in his neck, was rushed to the hospital, but was confirmed dead after 5 pm on the same day. His cause of death was blood loss.
Mrs. Akie, who got married in 1987, was left behind.
(Additional coverage: Andreas Ilmer)