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Who is Shinzo Abe?

JAPAN: Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has died, according to a report from public broadcaster NHK, on Friday, 8 July.

Abe, 67, had been delivering a campaign speech near a train station in the western city of Nara when he was shot by an assailant, before a fire department official said he was airlifted to a hospital.

Abe served two stints as Prime Minister, including a nearly eight-year run from 2012 to 2020 – the longest uninterrupted stint in power for a Japanese leader in its post-war era.

He first held the post in 2006 as the youngest leader in Japan since World War II. He made the creation of a new defense ministry a priority for his administration. It was part of his efforts to make Japan more assertive on the world stage, with a military able to take part in peacekeeping missions overseas.

He resigned abruptly in 2007 due to the intestinal ailment ulcerative colitis which made it untenable for him to continue in the job.

But with the LDP ousted in 2009 following a decades-long rule of the country, Abe returned in 2012 and presided over a landslide victory.

He then launched a three-pronged “Abenomics” strategy to beat persistent deflation and revive economic growth with hyper-easy monetary policy and fiscal spending, along with structural reform to cope with a fast-aging, shrinking population.

But by the summer of 2020, public support had been eroded by his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak as well as a series of scandals including the arrest of his former justice minister.

Abe enjoyed greater international name recognition than almost all of his predecessors and helped to put the country on the global stage. Notably, he made Japan a champion of free trade, a sharp reversal from decades of import restrictions meant to first protect fledgling manufacturers and then the politically powerful farming lobby.

He rescued the Trans-Pacific Partnership from near-death after a newly elected President Donald Trump in 2017 pulled the United States out of the 12-nation pact that was meant to bring a new era in trade and, more practically, hold back China. Abe also pushed to complete a long-negotiated deal with the European Union, the largest bilateral trade pact ever.

Abe has previously met with Lt. Gen Hun Manet in 2018 as part of the ongoing fond friendship between Cambodia and Japan.

Abe hailed from a wealthy political family that included a Foreign Minister father, Shintaro Abe, and a grandfather who was former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.

Japan has had a history of high-profile assassinations or assassination attempts. Among them was the killing of Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi by naval officers in 1932, in a failed coup.

Japan is a country with some of the strictest gun laws among leading economies and shootings are normally rare.

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