Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida looked set to consolidate authority within his ruling party after a strong election result virtually ensured him three more years in the office, even as the party mourned the killing of leading power broker Shinzo Abe.
The ruling conservative coalition, led by Mr Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), extended its majority in the upper house of parliament just two days after Shinzō Abe, Japan’s longest-serving PM before resigning in 2020, was assassinated while giving a campaign speech.
The crime stunned a nation where gun violence is extremely rare, setting off a wave of mourning that included a visit by the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Monday to offer condolences on behalf of President Joe Biden.
“I shared with our Japanese colleagues the sense of loss, the sense of shock that we all feel at this horrific tragedy,” he said at the end of the brief stopover, which included a meeting with Kishida. “But mostly, I came at the president’s behest because more than allies, we are friends – and when a friend is hurting, other friends show up.”
Thank you, Prime Minister Kishida, for the opportunity to visit and pay my respects to mourn with you and your nation a great statesman. We are deeply saddened over the killing of one of our dearest friends. The U.S.-Japan Alliance will always remain strong. pic.twitter.com/G4laDmKRss
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 11, 2022
The LDP and its junior partner Komeito won 76 of the 125 seats contested in the chamber, up from 69 previously. The LDP alone won 63 seats, up from 55, to win a majority of the contested seats, though it fell short of a simple majority on its own.
With no elections set for another three years, Mr Kishida has gained unusually large breathing space to attempt to implement an ambitious agenda that includes expanding defence spending and revising Japan’s pacifist constitution – a long-held dream of Abe’s before ill health led to his resignation in 2020.
BREAKING ?? : FINAL RESULTS –
♦️Japan's ruling coalition secures 76 out of 125 seats in upper house election.#japan #LDP #election pic.twitter.com/vnwVA317Ns
— Zaid Ahmd (@realzaidzayn) July 11, 2022
A moment of silence
What would normally have been a celebratory mood at LDP headquarters on Sunday night turned sombre. A moment of silence for Shinzō Abe was offered in his memory, and Mr Kishida’s face remained grim as he pinned rosettes next to winning candidates’ names on a board in a symbol of their victory.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday flags would be flown at half-mast for Abe, whose wake was set for Monday and his funeral for Tuesday.
As the nation grappled to come to terms with the killing, authorities continued their investigations into the suspect, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, who was arrested at the scene in Nara, western Japan.
The Nara prefectural police said on Monday the suspect had told them that on the morning of the day before the shooting he had test-fired the apparently home-made weapon used to attack Abe outside an unidentified organisation’s building in Nara prefecture.
The suspect told police he spent months planning the attack, accusing the former PM of links to a religious group he blames for his mother’s financial ruin, according to Japanese media.