VOX POPULI: Political assassinations are not limited to history books

A politician shot dead by an assassin’s bullet while stomping on an election campaign is sadly one of the risks a leader can face. Yet incidents of this magnitude invariably send shockwaves across the world.

Prior to World War II, former finance minister Junnosuke Inoue was assassinated during the 1932 Lower House election campaign.

The act was orchestrated by Ketsumeidan (literally, Blood-pledge Corps), a terrorist organization whose members had pledged to “kill one target each”.

Its leader, Nissho Inoue (1886-1967), is said to have told his comrades at the time that an election offers “the perfect opportunity to bring down the bigwigs of political parties”, according to the book “Ketsumeidan Jiken” (A case of Ketsumeidan) by political scientist Takeshi Nakajima.

But a national election in today’s Japan having such a tragic outcome? For my part, I did not see it coming.

On July 8, gun smoke engulfed the otherwise familiar sight of campaign banners set up outside a train station and a crowd listening to political speeches.

I pray for the soul of Shinzo Abe, the slain former Prime Minister.

As expected, all political parties issued statements promising never to give in to violence.

We may not feel close to politicians in our day-to-day lives, but they come to see us at election time, which allows us to meet them in person, hear what they have to say and ask them Questions.

But the 41-year-old suspect, who was arrested at the scene, took the chance to kill himself.

Awaiting his prey with a seemingly homemade concealed firearm, I wonder what dark passions possessed him.

I mentioned earlier that I did not expect such violent aggression in today’s Japan. Unfortunately, however, violent attacks on politicians do occur from time to time.

Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Ito was shot and killed in 2007. The unconscionable cowardice of such an act of violence cannot be condemned enough.

Ketsumeidan leader Inoue told a magazine after World War II, “I fervently pray for the realization of a society where politics is conducted legitimately and no one even thinks of resorting to terror” .

He was completely wrong. Whatever the political situation, only freedom of expression and the democratic process can offer hope for better things to come.

–Asahi Shimbun, July 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics, including culture, the arts, and social trends and developments. Written by veteran writers from Asahi Shimbun, the column offers helpful perspectives and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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