Japan’s PM targeted by a smoke bomb during a campaign rally

What happened at the event?

On Saturday morning, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was evacuated unharmed from a public event in Wakayama prefecture after what seemed to be a smoke bomb was thrown at him. When a device exploded near him, he was ready to give a speech in support of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s candidate in a local election. A silver, pipe-like item was seen flying through the air in Kishida’s direction, with plumes of white smoke rising from the ground. Ryuji Kimura, 24, of Hyogo prefecture, was seized at the spot and identified. His motivation is still unknown.

Japan's PM targeted by a smoke bomb during a campaign rally

How did the PM and the crowd react?

Kishida was escorted to the Wakayama prefectural police headquarters by security personnel. Later, he resumed his campaign rallies, saying, “Police are investigating the details of the previous speech venue’s loud explosive sound.” I apologize for worrying so many people. Our country is in the midst of a critical election. We must continue together.” As police hauled the man away, the crowd dispersed in fear. Some witnesses reported hearing a loud blast, while others reported seeing something soaring through the air. “I was stunned,” a woman at the scene stated. My heart is still racing.”

Who is the suspect and what is his motive?

Japanese media identified the suspect as Ryuji Kimura, 24, of Hyogo prefecture. He was detained on allegations of business obstruction and then sent to Tokyo for additional investigation. His motivation remains unknown, however, some reports claim he posted anti-government remarks on social media. When he was confronted by police and a fisherman, he was wearing a white surgical mask and holding what seemed to be a long silver tube. As he was being led away, he could be heard yelling, “I did it!”

What are the implications for the PM’s election bid?

The attack comes less than a year after Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was slain while giving a campaign address in Nara prefecture. The killing stunned Japan, where gun violence is uncommon, and revealed severe vulnerabilities in Abe’s security. The attack on Kishida sparked concerns about his security and popularity among voters. Kishida was elected president in October after winning a party leadership election, but his approval ratings have been poor due to criticism over his handling of the Covid-19 outbreak and diplomatic tensions with China and Russia. Later this month, he will face parliamentary by-elections and local elections, which are considered a litmus test for his leadership.

What are the implications for the PM’s election bid?

How have other political leaders and the public responded?

Other political figures and the general public condemned the attack on Kishida. “That something like this happened in the middle of an election campaign that constitutes the foundation of democracy is regrettable,” said Hiroshi Moriyama, a member of Kishida’s party. It’s an unforgivable heinous crime.” The leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, Yukio Edano, stated, “I strongly protest against any act that threatens democracy and people’s lives.” Many people expressed shock and disgust about the occurrence on social media, while others complimented Kishida for continuing his campaign despite the fear.

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