The Assassination of Shinzo Abe Is an Assault on Democracy

CommentaryThe world has reacted with shock to the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Abe was the Prime Minister of Japan on two occasions, from 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2020, when he resigned for health reasons. But he maintained his interest in politics and continued to advocate on behalf of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He was assassinated on July 8 in Nara when he was making a stump speech for Kei Sato, a candidate for election to Japan’s Upper House. The culprit has been identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, who confessed to murdering Abe with a handmade gun. Yamagami indicated to police that Abe was associated with an organisation—since named as a religious organisation—that swindled his mother out of her money. Regardless, the assassination is the handiwork of a sick and disturbed mind. Moreover, this happened in a country with moderate levels of violent crime and strict gun laws. The election campaign resumed on July 9, and elections were held, as scheduled, on July 10. Politicians of all parties felt that violence should neither impede nor delay the democratic traditions of Japan. Nevertheless, the process of mourning generated a genuine outpouring of sadness in Japan. The prime minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, described the assassination as a “cowardly, barbaric act.” Although most commentators and political leaders outside Japan also lamented Abe’s assassination, Chinese nationalists celebrated his murder and hailed the assassin as a “hero.” Nationalists still maintain their anti-Japanese sentiment, nurtured by the armed conflicts in the second Sino-Japanese War, when war crimes were committed and the Japanese occupied large swathes of mainland China. This reaction is certainly a sickening response to an event that all civilised nations should condemn. Australia’s Great Friend Abe was a great friend of Australia. He visited Australia in 2014 to promote trade in the Asia-Pacific region. Notably, he and then Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) on July 8, 2014—exactly eight years before his assassination—to facilitate the liberalisation of trade and investment between Japan and Australia. In his tribute to the slain leader, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese explained that Abe visited Australia five times during his tenure as prime minister and was instrumental in recognising the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries. Specifically, Albanese said: “Mr Abe understood instinctively the values that Australia and Japan share of democracy and human rights and the shared interest we have in bolstering the global rules-based order.” Australia’s landmark Opera House in Sydney, Australia, is lit up in the colours of Japan on July 10, 2022, in honour of slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Muhammad Farooq/AFP via Getty Images) Following Abe’s assassination, the Opposition Home Affairs spokesperson, Karen Andrews, predicted that it is “a matter of time until we experience such an assassination attempt in Australia.” Andrews’s prediction reflects miserably on Australia and discloses the existence of a defeatist attitude because of its unqualified acceptance that such a disastrous event will happen in Australia in the future. Of course, anything will happen in the fullness of time, but for the time being, the prediction, in promoting doom and gloom, does not serve any useful purpose. In fact, Andrews’s statement may well stimulate the prurient and unbalanced minds of people, who might want to emulate the example of the Japanese assassin. Nevertheless, Andrews’s prediction is a timely reminder that political assassinations are always possible and politicians’ safety is a precarious commodity, even at the best of times. Assassinations in History Indeed, even a cursory review of history reveals that assassinations have occurred in many democracies. For example, the assassinations of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln at the very end of the American Civil War and of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 are well-documented. In recent times, the United Kingdom was rocked by the murder of Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) Jo Cox, in 2016 and British Conservative MP Sir David Amess, in 2021. Politicians’ views generate both admiration and rancour in society. And the greater their achievements, the more likely depraved people will target them. The validity of this view is evidenced by the assassination of Shinzo Abe, who sought to reform his pacifist Constitution to recognise his country’s military and capably managed the economic resources of Japan—analysts commented favourably on his brand of economics, Abenomics. Abe also cultivated close ties with former U.S. President Donald Trump. But he also had to defend himself against allegations of cronyism. The assassinations of Abe and presidents Lincoln and Kennedy also provide evidence that visionary politicians are more

The Assassination of Shinzo Abe Is an Assault on Democracy

Commentary

The world has reacted with shock to the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Abe was the Prime Minister of Japan on two occasions, from 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2020, when he resigned for health reasons. But he maintained his interest in politics and continued to advocate on behalf of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

He was assassinated on July 8 in Nara when he was making a stump speech for Kei Sato, a candidate for election to Japan’s Upper House. The culprit has been identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, who confessed to murdering Abe with a handmade gun.

Yamagami indicated to police that Abe was associated with an organisation—since named as a religious organisation—that swindled his mother out of her money. Regardless, the assassination is the handiwork of a sick and disturbed mind. Moreover, this happened in a country with moderate levels of violent crime and strict gun laws.

The election campaign resumed on July 9, and elections were held, as scheduled, on July 10. Politicians of all parties felt that violence should neither impede nor delay the democratic traditions of Japan.

Nevertheless, the process of mourning generated a genuine outpouring of sadness in Japan. The prime minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, described the assassination as a “cowardly, barbaric act.”

Although most commentators and political leaders outside Japan also lamented Abe’s assassination, Chinese nationalists celebrated his murder and hailed the assassin as a “hero.” Nationalists still maintain their anti-Japanese sentiment, nurtured by the armed conflicts in the second Sino-Japanese War, when war crimes were committed and the Japanese occupied large swathes of mainland China. This reaction is certainly a sickening response to an event that all civilised nations should condemn.

Australia’s Great Friend

Abe was a great friend of Australia. He visited Australia in 2014 to promote trade in the Asia-Pacific region. Notably, he and then Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) on July 8, 2014—exactly eight years before his assassination—to facilitate the liberalisation of trade and investment between Japan and Australia.

In his tribute to the slain leader, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese explained that Abe visited Australia five times during his tenure as prime minister and was instrumental in recognising the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Specifically, Albanese said: “Mr Abe understood instinctively the values that Australia and Japan share of democracy and human rights and the shared interest we have in bolstering the global rules-based order.”

Epoch Times Photo
Australia’s landmark Opera House in Sydney, Australia, is lit up in the colours of Japan on July 10, 2022, in honour of slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Muhammad Farooq/AFP via Getty Images)

Following Abe’s assassination, the Opposition Home Affairs spokesperson, Karen Andrews, predicted that it is “a matter of time until we experience such an assassination attempt in Australia.” Andrews’s prediction reflects miserably on Australia and discloses the existence of a defeatist attitude because of its unqualified acceptance that such a disastrous event will happen in Australia in the future.

Of course, anything will happen in the fullness of time, but for the time being, the prediction, in promoting doom and gloom, does not serve any useful purpose. In fact, Andrews’s statement may well stimulate the prurient and unbalanced minds of people, who might want to emulate the example of the Japanese assassin.

Nevertheless, Andrews’s prediction is a timely reminder that political assassinations are always possible and politicians’ safety is a precarious commodity, even at the best of times.

Assassinations in History

Indeed, even a cursory review of history reveals that assassinations have occurred in many democracies. For example, the assassinations of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln at the very end of the American Civil War and of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 are well-documented.

In recent times, the United Kingdom was rocked by the murder of Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) Jo Cox, in 2016 and British Conservative MP Sir David Amess, in 2021.

Politicians’ views generate both admiration and rancour in society. And the greater their achievements, the more likely depraved people will target them.

The validity of this view is evidenced by the assassination of Shinzo Abe, who sought to reform his pacifist Constitution to recognise his country’s military and capably managed the economic resources of Japan—analysts commented favourably on his brand of economics, Abenomics. Abe also cultivated close ties with former U.S. President Donald Trump. But he also had to defend himself against allegations of cronyism.

The assassinations of Abe and presidents Lincoln and Kennedy also provide evidence that visionary politicians are more likely than mainstream politicians to cause resentment.

Indeed, Lincoln and Kennedy, in their own way, contributed to their country and the world. In emancipating African Americans, Abraham Lincoln sacrificed his life for his daring and courageous decision. And Kennedy may have paid the price for his strong stance against the placement of the USSR’s nuclear missiles in Cuba.

They both had strong views, which generated hatred and contempt in some people, who sought revenge by undermining the normal processes of democratic governance by resorting to utterly unacceptable methods.

Abraham Lincoln
The statue of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is seen inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Feb. 12, 2009. (Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

What Can Be Learned From This Episode?

Indeed, it is necessary to improve the protection of politicians and political candidates by providing better police and personal security. However, there is only so much that police can do, and it is impossible to provide targeted politicians with a cordon of security constantly.

Heightened security would also defeat the purpose of campaigning because the idea in a democracy is to bring the message of politicians to the people. This type of democracy is practised in Japan, where kerbside campaigning by politicians has been turned into an art form.

The sad result of Abe’s assassination is that politicians may resort to more virtual campaigning, which could sever the link between the governed and the governors.

Of course, in a democracy, it is impossible to make decisions that will please all members of society and hence, we need an unimpeded, free, and rational debate on the policies taken into an election campaign by politicians.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Gabriël A. Moens AM is an emeritus professor of law at the University of Queensland, and served as pro vice-chancellor and dean at Murdoch University. In 2003, Moens was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal by the prime minister for services to education. He has taught extensively across Australia, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Moens has recently published two novels “A Twisted Choice” (Boolarong Press, 2020) and “The Coincidence” (Connor Court Publishing, 2021).