Emotion has spread to Japan, a country unaccustomed to gun violence, after the announcement of the death of former liberal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, hit on Friday July 8 by the shooting of a former member of the military navy. The head of government, Fumio Kishida, denounced “a barbaric act, in the middle of the electoral campaign which is the basis of democracy”.

Mr. Abe was shot at around 11:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. in Paris) while he was giving a public speech at a crossroads near Yamato-Saidaiji station in Nara, New York. western Japan. He was speaking as part of the campaign for the senatorial elections on Sunday, July 10. His death was confirmed late afternoon in Japan. For several hours, authorities said he was in an “unknown” condition.

The attack that targeted her immediately made the Japanese political class react. “Wanting to silence a voice through murder is a challenge to democracy. I categorically condemn this act,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Party, the LDP. A condemnation echoed by all political leaders. Nara native Sumio Mabuchi of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party (PDC) slammed “unacceptable violence” and called for “establishing the truth”. Calling it a “barbaric act”, Communist Party General Secretary Kazuo Shii called “violence to suppress a voice intolerable”.

A country not accustomed to such attacks

International reactions poured in. On Twitter, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “deeply shocked by the heinous attack against Shinzo Abe”. The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the shooting attack on Mr. Abe, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. China and Russia expressed their “shock”.

Also participating in the senatorial campaign, Mr. Kishida canceled his tour of the department of Yamagata (North) to return to Tokyo. The government has set up an emergency unit in the Prime Minister’s office to try to understand what happened.

“A man came up from behind; the first shot was just a very loud noise and no one fell, but when the second shot came, Mr. Abe collapsed. Many people gathered around him and gave him a heart massage,” a woman present at the time told public broadcaster NHK. Wounded in the neck and unconscious, Mr. Abe was transported to the city hospital, before being transferred by helicopter to the university hospital center of Kashihara, near Nara. The emergency services quickly reported a cardio-respiratory arrest.

The emotion is all the greater in Japan as the country is not accustomed to such attacks. The Archipelago has barely 0.06 firearm deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 2.83 in France. Attacks on politicians are also rare, although in 2007 the mayor of Nagazaki, Iccho Ito, was shot and killed by a member of the underworld. The last political assassination dates back to 1960, with the death of the leader of the Japanese Socialist Party, Inejiro Asanuma, who fell under the saber blows of an ultranationalist.

This time the shooter, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested. It would be a former member of the maritime self-defense forces, who would have no criminal record and who would have acted alone. He would have used a homemade rifle with two juxtaposed barrels. “He did not run away and was tackled to the ground by the security guards,” the woman was quoted as saying by NHK.

Carefully controlled communication

Aged 67, Mr Abe holds the record for longest serving as head of Japan’s government. This heir to an old Japanese political dynasty began his career in the 1980s, in the corridors of the ministries of Kasumigaseki – the heart of Japanese politics. He started alongside his father, Shintaro Abe, then Minister of Foreign Affairs. He died in 1991, at the age of 67. The young Shinzo is then called upon to succeed him.

From the start of his parliamentary career, Shinzo Abe chose to join the most right-wing fringe of the PLD. Appointed secretary of this party in 2003, he imposed himself alongside the Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi (2001-2006), by tackling issues such as the case of the Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents, in the years 1970-1980. His firmness serves his popularity in part of the opinion. Successor to Mr. Koizumi in 2006, he came to power with a politically conservative and economically neoliberal program.

A scandal affecting the pension system, however, caused his popularity to drop. Nine months after coming to power, he lost the senatorial elections. Combined with a serious attack of ulcerative colitis – an incurable disease from which he suffered since the age of 17 and due to which he was hospitalized in 2007 – these problems forced him to resign.

In September 2012, however, Shinzo Abe took over the presidency of the PLD, which he led to victory in the legislative elections in December of the same year. Back in power, he shows that he has learned lessons from the failure of his first term. He manages business based on carefully controlled communication. It conducts an economic policy known as “abenomics”, combining monetary easing, budgetary stimulus and structural reform. It imposes a reinterpretation of the Constitution to widen the fields of intervention of the Japanese army, and hardens Japan’s security policy.

Influence peddling scandals

Shinzo Abe never gave up on his primary ambition to rewrite the Constitution, which he considered imposed by the American occupier. To strengthen his popularity, with a view to running for a fourth term in September 2021 and passing this historic reform, he was counting on the success of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Covid-19 epidemic has upset its plans, forcing it to accept a one-year postponement of competitions, annihilating the effects of abenomics and exposing the limits of its governance marked by indecision and a lack of responsiveness. To this were added influence peddling scandals, where his name like that of his wife, Akie, were mentioned, which tarnished his image. The mismanagement of the epidemic got the better of his popularity and he left his post in September 2020.

He then took the head of the “Hosoda faction”, the most powerful current within the PLD, which allowed him to maintain a role of kingmaker. He still enjoyed great popularity among party members, which led him to play an important role in the senatorial campaign.