Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling coalition won a landslide victory in elections for Japan’s upper house, presenting the government with a historic opportunity to revise the country’s pacifist constitution after the assassination of Shinzo Abe boosted voter turnout.
The vote took place two days after the country’s longest-serving prime minister was One gunman kills a manWhile giving a speech during a campaign speech in Nara, the western city.
Analysts originally expected a low voter turnout. But media projections suggested that more people voted than in the 2019 election after political parties united in condemning Abe’s shooting as “a challenge to democracy”.
The campaign was fought over the cost of living crisis and security issues tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not constitutional reform. The overwhelming victory grants Kishida A chance to review Article 9 of the constitution, which stipulates that land, sea and air forces “will never be maintained”. The hawkish Abe was determined to alter the article.
“In order to obtain public understanding, we would like to focus on deepening constitutional debate at the Diet so that we can submit specific proposals [for revision],” Kishida said.
Half the seats in Japan’s less powerful upper house are elected every three years through a mixture of constituency and proportional representation votes.
Kishida’s Liberal Democratic party won 63 of the 125 seats up for grabs, while its coalition partner, Komeito, obtained 13 seats. Addition of the seats won by two other parties in support of constitutional reform and the ruling coalition clinched the 93rd seat, well beyond the two-thirds majority necessary to revise the constitution. It was written after the second World War by US occupying troops.
The LDP, Komeito, Nippon Ishin, a rightwing populist party, and the Democratic Party for the People already hold a two-thirds majority in Japan’s lower house. To amend the constitution, it must have the support of the majority of citizens in order to pass both houses of parliament.
The obstacles to changing the constitution’s structure remain high. NHK conducted a poll before the election and found that 37% of respondents thought the constitution should change. 23% disagreed. Parts of the constitution that should be changed are also contested by parties in favor of reform.
The victory gives Kishida greater freedom to create policy and appoint close friends in high-ranking positions. Analysts said, however, that the loss of Abe, the nation’s Most influential and polarizing leaderThe LDP’s power balance could be rewritten in decades.
“The impact of Abe’s death on Japanese politics will be huge,” said Mieko Nakabayashi, a professor at Waseda University. “The party could become fragmented without a person [like Abe] to hold it together.”
Katsuyuki Isobe, a 50-year-old supporter of the LDP in the northern Tokyo neighbourhood of Hashiba, said he felt an even stronger “sense of conviction” to vote for the party following Abe’s death.
“Abe was an exceptional, charismatic leader with a great ability to bring people together,” Isobe said. “It’s a tremendous loss for Japan and for the LDP that he is no longer with us. I’m worried whether the LDP can manage without such a strong personality.”
Over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered to offer prayers and lay flowers at the makeshift memorial close to the scene of the shooting. A family funeral is expected to take place on Tuesday with a joint memorial service by the LDP and government at a later date, according to an official at Abe’s office.
Investigators are focusing on the motive of Abe’s suspected assailant — 41- year-old Tetsuya Yamagami — who told police that he held a grudge against a “particular group” with which he believed Abe had a close relationship.
Yamagami, a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, reportedly said his mother had made large financial donations to the group, upending their household.
These statements suggest that the assassination of President Obama was not motivated ideologically or politically, but an act of a single gunman.
Although police have yet to identify the group, a spokesperson for Tokyo’s Unification Church, also known as the Moonies confirmed that his mother had been a member of the church since 2000. He declined to confirm whether his mother had made large contributions.
In a StatementThe Unification Church released a statement condemning the shooting on Saturday. “Guns have no place in our religious beliefs or practices,” it said. The group did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Eri Sugiura and Nobuko Juji, Chiba