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Commemorating Shinzo Abe One Year After His Tragic Assassination

Former PM Yoshihide Suga reflects on Shinzo Abe, the transformative legacy he left postwar Japan, and shares his thoughts about carrying that legacy forward.



Prime Minister Kishida delivers a mourning address at the state funeral of former Prime Minister Abe on September 27 at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward (Pool photo)

It has been one year since the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was fatally shot during a campaign speech during the Upper House election. The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward reached out to individuals who had close relationships with Mr Abe to hear their current thoughts and reflections. 

Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was one of Mr Abe's closest friends and confidants. In an interview, Mr Suga shares his recollections and continuing commitment to carry Mr Abe's legacy forward. 

Excerpts of Mr Suga's comments follow:

Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is in an interview inside the Diet on June 27. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

Former Prime Minister Suga Remembers

It's difficult to comprehend that an entire year has passed since the tragic death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. There is a photograph of Mr Abe and me engaged in a lively conversation during the plenary session of the Lower House during the second Abe administration. It greets me every time I enter the reception room of my office at the Diet. 

Interestingly, visitors often notice that photo and it becomes a topic of discussion. Even now, I frequently find myself reminiscing about Mr Abe. And I ponder how various aspects would be different if he were still with us. For example, matters such as diplomacy, national security, and how to address declining births in Japan. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga happily shows his mobile phone to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on March 31, 2018. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

On Abe's Important Policy Initiatives

During his tenure, Mr Abe played a significant role in reforming Japan's Basic Act on Education. He did the same for security-related legislation such as the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets and establishing the National Security Council (NSC). These initiatives can be seen as transformative in reshaping the postwar framework of Japan. 

The policies implemented under Mr Abe's leadership sparked a range of discussions and debates, attracting both supporters and critics. In October 2019, his administration successfully secured approximately ¥2 trillion JPY (about $13.85 billion USD) in financial resources by raising the consumption tax rate from 8% to 10%. 

This financial boost facilitated the implementation of key initiatives such as free early childhood education and childcare. And also enabled the introduction of measures to alleviate the financial burden on families in higher education. 

Mr Abe's tenure witnessed a shift in focus within the social security system. It transitioned from a predominantly senior-citizen-centered approach to one that prioritized the needs of children and young people. It also had a particular emphasis on tackling the issue of daycare shortages.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles and talks with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga after winning in a no-confidence vote in the plenary session of the House of Representatives on September 18, 2015. (© Sankei by Yoshio Saito)

Stability of the LDP Coalition with the Komeito

His influence can be seen also in the coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito party. Mr Abe strongly believed that "the stability of the government leads to the advancement of policies." Even during the time when the LDP was in the opposition, the two parties worked together. And this cooperation has contributed to political stability.

There were instances where policy differences emerged between the two parties. One such case was the introduction of reduced tax rates in conjunction with the increase in the consumption tax rate to 10%. 

When the final decision was left to Mr Abe, I expressed my concern. I told him, "Continuing in this manner may strain the relationship with Komeito due to the reduced tax rates." Mr Abe firmly responded, "That is absolutely unacceptable. Let's find a way to reach a consensus." 

The decision was ultimately made, taking into consideration the preferences of Komeito. Given the significant rise in prices, implementing reduced tax rates and expanding the scope of eligible items proved to be beneficial.


Cooperating on National Security

Conversely, the enactment of security-related laws was driven by the strong determination of the LDP. Taking into account the principles of Komeito, we acknowledged the existence of challenges. However, we made diligent efforts to explain the necessity of these laws. 

Despite facing criticism and being labeled as "war legislation" or accused of "reviving conscription," we persevered in seeking understanding. And we successfully secured the passage of the bills through the National Diet. 

The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia further underscores the importance of implementing these laws. It would have been considerably challenging to accomplish this without the cooperation of Komeito.

Former PM Yoshihide Suga visits the Shinzo Abe photo exhibition at Tokyo Tower on November 19, 2022 (© Sankei by Shunsuke Sakamaki)

Carrying Abe's Legacy Forward

Moving forward, it is crucial to carry on Mr Abe's legacy and firmly advance policies that will shape the foundation of our nation. Given that Mr Abe has already provided the direction, it is crucial for us to move forward with determination.

After succeeding Mr Abe in the role of prime minister, I have taken on the responsibility of carrying forward his political legacy. Meanwhile, just as I inherited that responsibility, I feel the obligation to drive forward in resolving policies that were left unfinished by his administration. 

While fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the Abe administration addressed the accumulation of treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. And also the strategy for its subsequent release into the ocean. 

The national referendum law was revised, facilitating the procedure for constitutional revision. And the administration approved the 2050 Carbon Neutral Declaration, aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Moving ahead, I see it as my duty to continue advancing these policies and initiatives.

About Yoshihide Suga 

Suga is a Japanese politician and member of the Liberal Democratic Party. A Hosei University graduate, he was born in Akita Prefecture in 1948. After serving as a Yokohama City Council member, he was elected to the National Diet. First he held the position of Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications. He was then selected as Mr Abe's Chief Cabinet Secretary. It is a position he held for a record-breaking seven years and eight months during the second Abe administration. In September 2020, Mr Suga was elected as the 99th Prime Minister of Japan. He announced his decision not to run in September 2021 and stepped down from office in October of the same year. 


Interview by: Yusuke Oshima and Kensei Nomura, The Sankei Shimbun

(Read the article in Japanese.)


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