THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
July 8, 2022 at 18:00 JST
Upper House election campaigns came to a halt around Japan on July 8 as politicians from all sides prayed for the recovery of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot in Nara.
Politicians denounced the shooting as an attack against democracy, and many returned to Tokyo from the campaign trail to work out a response to the violence or lend a hand to Abe’s office.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was in Sagae, Yamagata Prefecture, on July 8 to help a rookie candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the Yamagata prefectural district.
Around noon, about half an hour after the shooting, Kishida appeared in front of supporters and gave a 10-minute speech as planned.
Kishida was scheduled to travel to JR Koriyama Station in Fukushima Prefecture to deliver a stump speech from 2:30 p.m. But the rally was canceled.
Just after 1 p.m. in Koriyama, a prefectural assembly member of the LDP informed supporters about the last-minute cancellation.
“Former Prime Minister Abe was reportedly shot in Nara Prefecture, and Prime Minister Kishida must return to his office,” the member said.
Kishida had flown by helicopter from Sagae to the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.
At 2:46 p.m., Kishida, visibly shaken and holding back tears, appeared in front of reporters. He said he would immediately summon all Cabinet members to discuss how the government should handle the situation, including the Upper House election schedule.
Abe’s successor as prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, canceled a scheduled trip to Okinawa Prefecture where he was expected to deliver a speech on behalf of local LDP candidates.
The LDP’s policy chief, Sanae Takaichi, scrapped plans to give an endorsement speech for an LDP candidate on July 8 in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Takaichi had received strong support from Abe when she ran for LDP president last year.
Economy minister Koichi Hagiuda, who held senior positions in the Abe administration, rushed to Abe’s office in Tokyo’s Nagatacho district after the shooting and held a 10-minute meeting with Abe’s staff members.
“I told them that all Cabinet members have returned from the campaign trail so we can provide help to them if they need it,” Hagiuda told reporters.
Hiroyuki Arai, a former LDP Upper House member who took a senior post in the Abe administration, also visited Abe’s office in Tokyo.
“Violence is an abominable act,” Arai told reporters.
He said he was with Abe in Osaka on the previous day.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” Arai said in a faltering voice. “I am just praying for his safety.”
Abe was scheduled to travel from Nara to Kyoto to deliver a stump speech at the busy Shijo-Kawaramachi crossing later on July 8.
Shoji Nishida, an LDP Upper House member, showed up at the location around 12:35 p.m. in a campaign vehicle decorated with a banner featuring Abe’s name.
“I am praying for a miracle,” Nishida told the crowd. “I sincerely hope (Abe) survives and recovers.”
PRAYERS FROM OPPOSITION PARTIES
Senior members of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan also canceled their campaign activities on July 8.
“We need to work across party lines and respond to the incident to prevent this kind of thing from happening again,” Kenta Izumi, the CDP leader, said.
“To secure the safety of political activities, I want to share such awareness with other parties and think about issuing a joint statement.”
Even staunch critics of Abe strongly condemned the violence and prayed for the recovery of the former prime minister.
Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, said in a video posted on her Twitter account that Abe was a victim of “an act of barbarism.”
“The party and I are strictly against any and all violence,” she said.
Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) decided to suspend all campaign activities on July 8.
Party leader Ichiro Matsui said he had talked with Abe over the phone before the campaign started, and they both wished each other well.
“We belong to different parties, but we have agreed on the idea of making Japan better,” Matsui said.
“Abe is someone that Japan needs for the future,” he said. “I do hope he recovers and gets well.”
Matsui said Nippon Ishin will resume campaign activities on July 9 to show that “violence cannot stop democracy, and we will never surrender to violence.”
Other opposition leaders, including Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the Democratic Party for the People, and Kazuo Shii, head of the Japanese Communist Party, expressed anger over the shooting and sent wishes for Abe’s recovery.
Tamaki said the DPP will suspend outdoor speeches on July 8 for security reasons.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who used to be a member of the LDP, prayed for Abe’s recovery at a news conference.
“I am shocked by the news,” she said in tears. “No matter what the reason may be, I simply cannot tolerate this act of barbarism.”
BUSINESS LEADERS STUNNED
Business leaders were also shocked and saddened by the news.
Kengo Sakurada, chairman of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), said he learned about the shooting during a meeting in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.
“An impermissible thing occurred while we were discussing the challenges facing Japan and its excellence,” Sakurada told reporters. “I am in shock. I hope it is a false report.”
Takeshi Niinami, president of Suntory Holdings Ltd. who attended the meeting, condemned the attack and praised Abe for bolstering the Japanese economy.
“I just hope he can continue to make Japan healthy and better,” Niinami said.
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