Make Every Effort to Ensure Safety of Stump Speeches

The incident in which an explosive device was thrown toward Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a venue where he was to make a speech has sent shockwaves throughout Japan and the world. There is an urgent need to examine the problems with guarding the prime minister. The ways that politicians make speeches and conduct election campaigns must also be questioned.

Details have gradually been emerging about the attack on the prime minister just before his speech at a fishing port in Wakayama City.

The suspect threw a cylindrical explosive device at the prime minister from a distance of about 10 meters. The explosive landed near the prime minister’s feet and exploded about 50 seconds later. The man tried to throw another explosive device, but he was seized by a fisherman and other people before he was able to.

The prime minister was evacuated and unharmed, but a police officer and another person suffered minor injuries. Amid the panic, many people took videos of the scene with their smartphones. If the explosive had been strong enough, many of the people in the audience would have been harmed.

The explosive device is believed to have been a homemade bomb, and a metal pipe and gunpowder-like substance were found in the man’s home. The man also brought a fruit knife to the scene.

The suspect may have carefully prepared for the crime. It is essential to ascertain his motive and the background of the incident.

Following the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last July, some expressed sympathy for the defendant in connection with issues involving the Unification Church (formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification), and discussions on such matters as strengthening the protection of VIPs were not conducted in sufficient depth.

It would be extremely concerning if the man arrested in Wakayama was inspired by the Abe case. Freedom of speech must not be suppressed by violence for any reason.

The role of the police has become increasingly important in recent years. Even people without expertise can now manufacture guns and explosive devices based on information found on the internet. The police must strengthen their security systems with this in mind.

Maintaining distance between a speaker and the audience, and installing shields to protect the speaker, are measures that should be considered.

As long as the safety of stump speeches is threatened, politicians need to change their awareness.

In the United States, many campaign speeches are held indoors, with thorough baggage screening and admission control. Each political party must discuss how to deliver campaign speeches in Japan, using the measures taken in the United States as examples.

The incident in Wakayama was also reported by foreign media. The U.K.’s BBC, while noting the overall safety of Japan, referred to Abe’s shooting and emphasized that there has been heightened security around politicians since then.

Next month, a Group of Seven summit will be held in Hiroshima City. The police must take all possible measures to secure the venue and protect dignitaries, in order to regain the trust of the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2023)