Abe, 67, was gunned down Friday in Nara city while giving a speech in support of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidates in an assassination that stunned a country with one of the lowest gun crime rates in the world.
The country’s leaders called on the public to come and vote on Sunday, condemning the killing as an attack on democracy.
“We must absolutely defend free and fair elections, which are the foundation of democracy,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, adding that the party “will continue our election campaign as planned, with the firm conviction that we will never succumb to violence.” .”
While the upper house is the less influential of Japan’s two houses of parliament, the victory bolsters Kishida’s political base and could help him move forward on key policy issues, including possibly revising Japan’s pacifist constitution, a cause Abe has championed for nearly nine years. years of his reign. in power, and one that would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, followed by a popular referendum.
Hours after the polls closed on Sunday, Kishida told NHK: “An election is at stake due to violence, but we must complete it. work hard to defend democracy.”
The election results came as the investigation continues into Abe’s murder suspect, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, who was arrested on the spot immediately after the shooting.
Police say he is a suspect in the murder, but he has not been formally charged.
Yamagami said he held a grudge against a certain group that he believed Abe was connected to and that his mother was connected to, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo news agency, citing police.
Nara police said on Monday that Yamagami may have conducted a test shooting early Thursday morning at a “certain group” building in Nara Prefecture, using a makeshift pistol with which he later killed Abe.
Investigators said a vehicle believed to be Yamagami’s was spotted by security cameras near where the test shooting reportedly took place on Thursday. Police declined to name the group, and CCTV footage has not been released to the public.
CNN was unable to independently confirm which group the suspect was referring to.
The suspect’s mother was a member of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, commonly known as the Unification Church, Tomihiro Tanaka, the church’s Japan representative, said in a statement Monday.
The suspect has never been a member of a church, and his mother attended church events about once a month, the statement said. Tanaka added that the organization would cooperate with investigators if asked to do so.
Yamagami told police he watched a YouTube video to help him make his weapons, NHK said on Monday, citing investigators. He had been practicing firearms in the mountains days before the murder, and police found wooden boards with bullet holes in the suspect’s car, NHK reported.
Photos from the scene on Friday show the weapon with two cylindrical metal barrels wrapped in black tape.
Yamagami also told investigators that he originally intended to kill Abe with explosives at an event in Okayama Prefecture, a three-hour drive from Nara, NHK reported, but he reportedly changed his plan due to potential difficulty entering the event.
As a national leader, Abe has been associated with several groups, organizations, and organizations, which is common in any democracy. It is unclear if Abe was associated with any of the groups the suspect spoke of.
Asked if the suspect worked alone or with someone else, police said they were investigating all possible options.
A nation in mourning
The shooting shocked Japan, a country long considered one of the safest in the world.
A private wake was held in Tokyo on Monday, with a funeral scheduled for Tuesday, Abe’s office said. The department added that they would hold a funeral ceremony.
The office has installed a flower-laying altar at its Yamaguchi office and will add incense space tomorrow, the report said.
Days after Abe’s death, mourners in Nara gathered and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial near where he was shot.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, serving in office from 2006 to 2007 and then again from 2012 to 2020 when he stepped down for health reasons. But even after his resignation, Abe remained a powerful figure in the country’s political landscape and continued to campaign for the LDP.
“He has been such a prominent figure in Japanese politics for so long… I think everyone expected him to continue to wield tremendous power in the coming years,” said Tobias Harris, senior fellow for Asia at the Center for American Progress.
“So the reality that he doesn’t have that power, that he’s gone and that he’s left a power vacuum in the LDP is … a much bigger shock even than the very fact of his death to the general public.”
Messages of mourning and remembrance came from world leaders past and present, many of whom worked with Abe — a highly influential figure in the Asia-Pacific region who set policy for a generation — during his time in office.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Tokyo on Monday, meeting with Kishida to pay his respects and express condolences to the Japanese people.
“I am here because the United States and Japan are more than allies; we are friends. And when one friend gets hurt, another friend appears,” Blinken told reporters on Monday. He added that Abe was “a visionary who took relations with the US to a new level.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and several senior government officials also visited the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei on Monday to pay tribute to Abe and express their “deepest condolences” to the Abe family. Taiwan also lowered flags to half-mast to celebrate Abe’s contribution to the development of the island.