Upper house

Upper house election campaign winds down as Abe’s death shocks Japan

Candidates make their final calls across Japan for the House of Councilors election on Saturday, gripped by the death of Shinzo Abe, a former prime minister who was shot dead during a campaign speech the day before.

Top political party leaders will address voters directly in various parts of Japan amid heightened security following Abe’s death in Nara, western Japan, at an event aimed at rallying support for his ruling coalition ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections.

The triennial election is an opportunity for voters to deliver their verdict on the handling of government by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has pledged to take steps to soften the blow of rising prices and strengthen the defense of the country in the midst of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Police officers stand guard at an area where stump speeches are scheduled in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture on July 9, 2022, for the July 10 House of Councilors election. (Kyodo)

The shooting of Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, sent shockwaves through the Liberal Democratic Party to which he belonged, political circles and ordinary citizens on Friday as the roughly two-week campaign drew to a close. end.

Kishida, who currently leads the PLD, strongly condemned the “barbaric act” which called into question “the foundation of democracy”. But he refused to give in to such violence, vowing the election would go ahead as planned to ensure freedom and fairness.

A total of 125 seats are up for election – half of the 248-member upper house and one to fill a vacancy in the other uncontested half.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, delivers a stump speech in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture on July 9, 2022, for the July 10 House of Councilors election. (Kyodo)

Related coverage:

Japanese lawmakers and business leaders mourn the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Abe

FOCUS: Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Abe was known for his hawkish security stance

Abe’s shooter originally planned to attack the leader of a religious group

Abe was a member of the most powerful House of Representatives.

Kishida has set a goal for the coalition of the PLD and its junior partner the Komeito to retain a majority in the entire upper house, including the uncontested ones.

Threats to democracy and the rule of law are apparently on the minds of voters following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kishida’s government condemned the invasion as a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force that undermines the foundations of the international order.

Inflation is also a hot issue.

People listen to a politician make a stump speech in Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture, eastern Japan, July 9, 2022, for the July 10 House of Councilors election. (Kyodo)

Kishida blamed it on the war, while the main opposition Democratic Constitutional Party of Japan called the rising price trend “Kishida inflation”.

There are fears that rising energy and food prices could dampen consumer confidence at a time when the world’s third-largest economy has yet to fully recover from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The LDP is also pushing for increased defense spending to fundamentally strengthen its defense posture against threats from its neighbors, including assertive China, nuclear-armed North Korea and Russia.

The ruling party has in mind an increase in defense spending to a level equivalent to 2% or more of Japan’s gross domestic product, although the Komeito and major opposition parties like the CDPJ say its substance, not its size, should come first.

A key barometer to watch is whether the pro-amendment forces can retain the two-thirds majority needed to launch any proposal to amend the Constitution for the first time, a LDP goal pushed by Abe and restrained by Kishida. .