Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-09 08:18:16 : Ben Dooley and Hikari Hida
TOKYO — It was supposed to be a quiet election for the Upper House of Parliament. But the assassination on Friday of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has added an element of chaos to Japanese politics just two days before voters head to the ballot box.
For the time being, political parties across the spectrum are pulling back on their messaging, but the election is still going ahead.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after Mr. Abe’s death that campaigning for the Upper House election would continue as planned.
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of democracy, and we absolutely must protect them,” he said, adding that doing so would demonstrate Japan’s “firm resolve not to surrender to violence.”
Japanese electoral law gives candidates just over two weeks to take their message to voters, and the last days normally involve politicians sprinting through endless rallies, hoping to drum up last-minute votes.
Candidates running for an electoral seat make many stops every day across their prefecture, usually on a truck with their face and slogan plastered along the side. They typically park along the road and talk from beside or even atop their truck.
Often, lesser-known candidates will have a more prominent politician join them for a few stops. That is what Mr. Abe was doing on Friday: supporting a younger politician running for re-election, even though he himself was not up for election.
So far, the authorities have not announced additional security measures for the last day of campaigning.
Mr. Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, have been the dominant political force in Japan since the end of World War II, and the country’s scattered opposition parties have little hope of changing that on Sunday.
Upper House members in Japan serve staggered six-year terms, with half of them up for election every three years. This year, 75 members will be chosen to represent electoral districts, and 50 through proportional representation.
Even after stepping down as prime minister in 2020, Mr. Abe continued to be a powerful force in his party, pushing forward his long-held goals of increasing Japan’s military spending and changing its pacifist Constitution to allow it to maintain a standing army.
That role as a power broker kept him at the center of public attention in the lead-up to the election, said Tobias Harris, a senior fellow for Asia at the Center for American Progress who has written a biography of Mr. Abe.
His death will have a powerful impact on the election, Mr. Harris said, even though the specifics are yet to be known.
“It just scrambles so much,” Mr. Harris said.
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