Abe’s party vows to finish his work after weekend election win in Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks in Tokyo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at his party’s headquarters in Tokyo after weekend elections for Japan’s upper house of parliament.
(Toru Hanai / Pool Photo)

Days after his assassination, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party vowed to use its sizable victory in a parliamentary election to achieve his unfinished goals, including strengthening the military and revising the country’s pacifist, postwar constitution.

The governing Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, secured a majority in the parliament’s upper house in elections Sunday that took on new meaning after Abe was shot to death while campaigning Friday in a killing that shook the nation. The result means Prime Minister Fumio Kishida could rule uninterrupted until a scheduled election in 2025 and allows him to work on long-term policies — but the constitutional amendment would still face an uphill battle.

Kishida welcomed the victory but also acknowledged that unifying the party would be a hard task without Abe, who even after resigning as prime minister in 2020 had led a powerful party faction.


“Because we’ve lost a great leader, undeniably we could be affected in many ways,” Kishida said. “Our party must unite as we face difficult issues.”

He said the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices would be his priorities. But he also vowed to push for reinforcing Japan’s national security and amending the constitution, which allows the country’s military to act only in self-defense.

Abe and some of the country’s ultra-conservatives consider the document written by the U.S. in the wake of World War II a humiliation and have long sought to turn the country’s Self Defense Force into a full-fledged military. But many in the public are more supportive of the document and see addressing the pandemic and the soaring cost of food, fuel and childcare as more pressing.

A crude weapon of metal and wood parts was used to assassinate the former prime minister of Japan, which has some of the world’s strictest gun laws.

July 8, 2022

“We will inherit his will and tackle the issues he had to leave unachieved,” Kishida said of Abe.

To propose a constitutional amendment, both houses of parliament need to support it by a two-thirds majority. Sunday’s vote gave 179 of the upper chamber’s 248 seats — more than enough — to the LDP-led coalition and two opposition parties open to a charter revision. Those parties together would also have the required number of seats in the more powerful lower house.

But it’s far from clear sailing: Even though it’s part of the governing coalition, the centrist Komeito party says changing the article in the constitution constraining Japan’s military is unnecessary. In addition, any amendment would need to secure a majority of support in a national referendum to pass.


Abe, who stepped down as prime minister two years ago, citing health reasons, said at the time that he regretted leaving many of his goals unfinished, including revising the constitution.

Shinzo Abe was a political blueblood groomed for power, but his vision of a conservative and nationalistic Japan sparked both exultation and outrage.

July 8, 2022

On Monday evening, a wake was held for him at a Buddhist temple in downtown Tokyo. Kishida and top former and current political leaders, as well as ordinary mourners, paid tribute. Some broke down in tears.

A funeral is planned at the temple Tuesday by Abe’s family. The government is expected to hold a separate memorial service at a later date.

Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Kishida to offer condolences and deliver a letter from President Biden to Abe’s family.

“We simply want them to know that we deeply feel the loss on the personal level as well,” Blinken told Kishida. “Mostly I’m here because the United States and Japan are more than allies — we are friends.”

Blinken said Abe “did more than anyone to elevate the relationship between the United States and Japan to new heights.”

Blinken was the highest-ranking U.S official to visit Japan in the aftermath of Abe’s death.

Japan’s longest-serving political leader, Abe was the grandson of another prime minister and became Japan’s youngest premier in 2006, at age 52. The overly nationalistic stint in office abruptly ended a year later, also because of his health, prompting six years of annual leadership change.

He returned to the premiership in 2012, vowing to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. He won six national elections and built a rock-solid grip on power.

On Sunday, the man accused of his killing was transferred to a local prosecutors’ office for further investigation, and a top regional police official acknowledged that possible security lapses allowed the gunman to get close to Abe.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he acted because of Abe’s rumored connection to an organization that he resented, police said. Some Japanese media identified the group as South Korea’s Unification Church, and reported that the suspect’s mother donated large amounts of money to the church. They suggested that the donations and her subsequent bankruptcy were a possible motive.

The Japanese branch of the church acknowledged Monday that the suspect’s mother was a member, but denied that it demanded large donations from anyone.

Tomihiro Tanaka, head of the church, declined comment on specific donations, saying a police investigation was ongoing. Generally speaking, he said, some people had made generous donations, but he stressed that none was forced.

Tanaka said Abe was not a member, though he supported the church’s global peace movement.