TOKYO: Japanese politicians will resume campaigning for Sunday’s House of Councillors election after stopping their activities Friday following the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In the national poll, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will face the verdict of voters on his government management since he took office in October last year.
Key issues in the election for the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, include the Russian invasion of Ukraine, soaring prices and Japan’s security policy.
On Friday morning, Abe was shot while giving a stump speech for a ruling Liberal Democratic Party candidate running in the Upper House race in the western prefecture of Nara. He was later confirmed dead.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and the leader of the LDP’s biggest faction, was traveling across the country to deliver stump speeches as he had strong influence even after stepping down as the country’s leader in September 2020.
Abe was someone whom Kishida sought advice from. His death will inevitably have an impact on the Upper House poll and government management.
On Friday, Kishida and his cabinet members immediately canceled their campaigning activities in response to the news of the shooting.
Senior officials of the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, as well as opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People, followed the suit.
All these parties condemned the shooting, saying that the barbaric act of silencing speech with violence is unacceptable.
On Saturday, the last day of the official campaign period for the Upper House race, the parties plan to carry out campaigning activities as scheduled.
“Elections are the foundations of democracy. Let’s show our attitude of not yielding to violence and carry through (the Upper House election),” Kishida told Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi over the telephone.
In the election, 545 candidates–367 for prefectural constituencies and 178 for proportional representation seats–are competing for 125 seats–74 in prefectural constituencies, 50 under the proportional representation system and one to fill a vacancy in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.
Voting will close at 8 p.m. Sunday (11 a.m. GMT) except in some areas. Many candidates are likely to learn the results by midnight.
In Upper House elections, half of all seats are contested every three years. The total number of the chamber’s seats rises by three to 248 from this election.
As the LDP and Komeito hold a total of 70 uncontested seats, they aim to win 55 seats or more in the poll so that the ruling camp can hold a majority of all Upper House seats.
The main opposition CDP aims to maintain its 23 contested seats.
Parties in favor of revising the Constitution–the ruling camp, Nippon Ishin and the DPFP–will be able to secure a two-thirds majority in both Diet chambers if they gain at least 82 seats in the Upper House poll. Approval by at least two-thirds of members in each chamber is required for any proposal to change the supreme charter.