Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Thursday while campaigning in the Nara prefecture — a tragic end to one of Japan’s most successful and powerful post-war politicians.
Abe — the country’s first prime minister born after World War II — is Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He served from 2006 to 2007 and again in 2012 until he resigned in 2020 after his ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition, resurfaced, calling his decision at the time “gut-wrenching.”
Abe’s overwhelming success in office is reflected in the dominance of his Liberal Democratic Party — Japan’s center-right political party and the most powerful institution in Japanese democracy today.
The former prime minister is most remembered for his “Abenomics” policies aimed at forcing growth in the economy despite a rapidly aging population and plummeting birthrates.
“I will break down any and all walls looming ahead of the Japanese economy and map out a new trajectory for growth. This is precisely the mission of Abenomics,” Abe said of the programs.
Abenomics pumped government spending into creating opportunities and innovations that would keep Japan relevant on a global stage despite economic speed bumps.
Abe was famous domestically and abroad for his strong, nationalist policies and stated vision for a more powerful, self-sufficient Japan. He repeatedly refused policies suggested by international bodies — such as migration and refugee quotas — saying that his country first needed to fix its own problems.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has demanded a return to a militarized Japan for years, citing the dangers of passivity while surrounded by hostile forces including China and North Korea.
Under his leadership the Japanese Self-Defense Force — a military-style protective force for domestic defense — was expanded and strengthened.
Abe was a serious believer in the power of a U.S.-Japan friendship, and spent his career hosting, wooing and negotiating with American statesmen.
Former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush have all spoken highly of their interactions with Abe.
Abe was also a staunch defender of the Japanese Imperial Family, serving during the reign of both Emperor Emeritus Akihito and his son, current Emperor Naruhito.
Abe was taken from the scene of the shooting unconscious and in cardiac arrest with no vital signs, Japanese media outlets Kyodo News and NHK reported.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the attack “dastardly and barbaric” and that the crime during the election campaign, which is the foundation of democracy, is absolutely unforgivable.
A male suspect was arrested at the scene and an apparent homemade gun was confiscated. He was identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, Nara prefectural police confirmed.
Yamagami was tackled by security after the shooting.