One year after the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, police continue to work to improve their protection protocols and his internal party faction loses influence as its next leader remains unchosen.
Review of police protocols after the incident of July 8, 2022 did not prevent the current president, Fumio Kishida, from being the target of an attempted attack months later, attacks in both cases perpetrated by “lone wolves” that have established a certain atmosphere of social paranoia, multiplying the reports of suspicious objects that have mobilized special forces in vain.
The shooting of Abe in broad daylight while he was giving a speech in the street, electoral events extremely common in Japan, led the security forces to completely review their regulations and, in particular, the system of protection of personalities that applies in these cases.
The small number of agents deployed, the choice of place (an island on a road where traffic was not blocked) and the location of Abe’s security forces and bodyguards were determining factors in the death of the politician, that he was shot in the back twice without reacting in time.
These failures led the National Police Agency (NPA) to review all draft protection plans drawn up by local police forces, to create specialized units and to increase the number of agents for these events.
The reforms did not prevent Prime Minister Kishida last April from suffered an attempted attack from which he emerged unsuccessful.
Both incidents took place at electoral events, which is why the police have begun dispatching senior officials to the headquarters of each party to ask for their collaboration and improve security.
Among their requests are that the places chosen for their events are preferably indoors, that they make sure to keep their distance from the public, perform inspections of belongings and the use of metal detectors, unusual elements in rallies.
In both attacks, the perpetrators manufactured their weapons (a kind of shotgun and a pipe bomb), for which reason the authorities have also requested that suspicious signs be reported in buildings, such as the smell of gunpowder, assembly noises, detonations or the waste of large amounts of chemical bottles.
FIGHT FOR LEADERSHIP
In addition to rare electoral events, Abe’s death left a political vacuum in the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), still called the Abe faction, in a display of the influential shadow of the veteran politician, who a year later is still without having chosen their new leader.
Although there have been several proposals, to date they have been rejected by internal division, even despite fears that the absence of a visible head would reduce their influence, something that has already been noted in the loss of relevant positions in local elections.
“The high-ranking members of the faction are eager to take over, but they are rivals for power and the stakes are high in control of the faction. (…) Whoever emerges as leader has a good chance of becoming prime minister,” explains Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan, to EFE.
Kingston believes that “it is important that the faction has a strong leader who can maintain unity and defend the posts in the Cabinet when Kishida reshuffles it”a restructuring that has been rumored for some time, along with an advance of the general ones.
Kishida, he says, has no interest in losing the support of the powerful faction, “but if the faction starts to unravel, it will be a diminished political force, occupying fewer Cabinet seats and not being able to bully the rest of the party into supporting its policies.” relatively hard-liners on security, review and tax.
The three most prominent names in the Abe faction leadership fight are current Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and former ministers Koichi Hagiuda and Hiroshige Seko.
“Seko was known as mini-Abe, as one of his closest advisers, but he is in the less powerful Upper House, and he has little charisma,” says Kingston, for whom Hagiuda is one of the clearest options, although “he has many detractors inside and outside the party, and it will be difficult for him to serve as its “visible face.”