One day after Abe’s assassination, campaigns give final push

TOKYO — Legislative candidates in Japan rushed from rally to rally hoping to appeal to voters during the final hours of the campaign period, just a day after the assassination of Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Prime Japan’s minister, raised fears that the campaign could be halted.

Mr Abe was shot dead on Friday while campaigning for a candidate for the Upper House of Parliament in the election.

But Saturday seemed to be political business as usual. White vans bearing large photos of politicians and shouting their names through loudspeakers rolled through the streets. The contestants bumped fists with supporters and posed for selfies.

From the backs of traveling vans, street corners and train station entrances, candidates from the country’s many political parties attempted to sell voters on their differing visions of Japan’s future. They campaigned as if they agreed on at least one thing: the violence of a day earlier should not undermine the country’s elections.

In the hours immediately following the shooting of Mr Abe in the city of Nara, it looked like the campaign period – which was due to end on Saturday evening – could end early as the country grapples with the death of one of its most powerful and influential political figures. .

But on Friday night Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in a brief eulogy of Mr Abe, announced that he intended to continue campaigning on behalf of his Liberal Democratic Party, saying to do otherwise would be to give in to violence.

He traveled under tight security to two prefectures on Saturday to support party candidates. While he addressed Mr Abe’s death in his remarks to voters, he largely focused on election issues, such as how to revive Japan’s economy and deal with rising prices.

For opposition parties, the political calculation of the campaign after the assassination was more complex. As a key figure in the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, Mr Abe had often served as a front for liberal politicians.

Speaking in the trendy Shibuya district of Tokyo, Taku Yamazoe, 37, a member of the Japanese Communist Party who is seeking a second term, denounced the murder of Mr Abe.

“We will not tolerate the silence of free speech,” he told his supporters. “Violence is not democracy. »

But supporters of opposition candidates said they feared the shooting could lead to a wave of sympathy votes for the ruling party, worsening their already slim electoral chances.

In Tokyo’s trendy Ginza district, hundreds of people gathered to cheer Akiko Ikuina, a former pop idol candidate for the Liberal Democratic Party.

It was his final campaign stop and Mr Abe was due to attend.

Standing on the roof of a van, Ms Ikuina, 54, fought back tears as she urged her supporters to go to the polls on Sunday to honor the former prime minister’s legacy: ‘Those of us who remain’ , she said, “must help realize Abe’s vision for our country. »

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