Shinzo Abe assassinated: Does it leave Japan undone?
HONG KONG, July 8 (Reuters)- Shinzo Abe, the politician who dragged Japan out of deflation and dressed up as Super Mario to promote the Tokyo Olympics, was assassinated in the street by a lone gunman on Friday. The bloody silencing of a polarising, unorthodox economic reformer will have wider repercussions for Asia’s most successful democracy.
Apart from cosplaying a video-game character, the country’s longest-serving prime minister was best known for his eponymous package of economic policies popularly known as Abenomics. His focus on ultra-low interest rates and higher fiscal spending was controversial, as were his attempts to reinvigorate other animal spirits, especially nationalism.
Abe stepped down as prime minister in 2020, citing health problems. His legacy was not yet secure, though, thanks largely to the U.S.-China trade war and the Covid-19 pandemic. Today the central bank is still holding interest rates near zero to support growth and inflation even as trading partners hike. Japan Inc remains recalcitrant about wage hikes. The $5 trillion economy is roughly the same size it was when Abe took power in 2012. His campaign to free Japan’s army from a pacifist constitution and pump up military spending was not entirely successful, either.
Abe was elected head of the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai in 2021, the most powerful faction in the Liberal Democratic Party. That gave him a platform to keep pressing his successors – first Yoshihide Suga then Fumio Kishida – to stick with his plan. In fact, he was on the campaign trail for the LDP when he was shot. His attacker’s motives are presently unclear.
The murder will traumatise Japan. Assassination was common before World War Two, but the last major political killing in the country occurred in 1960. These days most politicians address the people at close range with minimal security. That may now change. Meanwhile the manner of Abe’s death could energise radicals on the left and right, widening social divisions.
His economic and defence policies are now more or less consensus. Without his giant charisma pushing from behind the scenes, however, Prime Minister Kishida, a more conservative bureaucrat, may try to ease off on the reform throttle to focus more on his redistributionist “new capitalism” agenda. Alternatively Abe’s faction may use his death to push harder to realise his dream of a stronger, prouder Japan. Regardless, the man himself, a tireless worker, would take little consolation in leaving so much unfinished.
Shinzo Abe assassinated: CONTEXT NEWS
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving modern leader, died on July 8 after being shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election.
NHK published a video of Abe making a campaign speech outside a train station in the city of Nara when two shots rang out, after which the view was briefly obscured. Security officials were then seen tackling a man on the ground.
Police said 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami is suspected of carrying out the shooting and has been arrested.
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