EDITORIAL: Abe’s state funeral raises many questions about what is appropriate

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has arbitrarily decided to honor former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a state funeral. The September 27 event in Tokyo unfolded amid fierce controversy that demonstrated a bitter division in society.

In light of this, we believe the government is obligated to conduct a review and assessment of the event before anything else.

If he is trying to establish clear rules for future state funerals, then surely the debate must begin with the crucial question of whether this form of mourning is suitable for politicians.

Representatives of the ruling and opposition parties recently began talks at a special council to deliberate on matters concerning state funerals set up under the Rules and Administration Committee. of the lower house.

The council is expected to set a “direction” for further talks by the end of the current Diet session on Dec. 10 after listening to government explanations and expert advice.

The government plans to conduct its own separate review, and Kishida has indicated plans to set “certain rules” for state funerals.

Diet involvement would be a key part of the discussions.

For Abe’s state funeral, Kishida made no effort to win support from a wide cross-section of society, including opposition parties, saying it was a decision that could be taken within the jurisdiction of the government.

The opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) criticized the way the decision was made, although it supported the state funeral itself.

He introduced a state funeral bill drafted by lawmakers that would require prior Diet approval and a report to the legislature after the event.

But Diet approval is not enough to warrant a state funeral for a politician.

The public was divided over Abe’s state funeral, in part because of starkly different assessments of his domestic and foreign policy legacy.

Other factors included Abe’s controversial political style, which was marked by a lack of commitment to his responsibility to explain political decisions and actions, as well as criticism of his “negative” political legacy, such as the scandals concerning two educational institutions directly and indirectly linked to him and tax-funded cherry blossom viewing parties.

Revelations about his close ties to the Unification Church, now officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, emerged after his murder and must have affected public opinion on the funeral issue as well. national.

As these facts demonstrate, it is by no means a simple or easy task to make a fair and convincing assessment of a politician’s legacy. Such an assessment is inevitably influenced by political positions and opinions.

Even though the decision to hold Abe’s state funeral was backed by a majority of Diet members, mostly lawmakers from the ruling camp, that can’t hide the fact that the public was deeply divided on the issue.

Deliberations should not focus solely on procedures.

It is essential to have a debate on such basic issues as the purpose of state funerals and whether such memorial services should be held for politicians.

Any violation of people’s right to freedom of conscience or any attempt to force people to express their condolences is unacceptable.

The central government has not asked local governments or school boards to raise mourning flags or take other actions to mark Abe’s state funeral.

Yet government officials refrained from such requests only because they faced a strong public backlash against the planned funeral.

It should not be forgotten that the Cabinet has formally decided to ask a series of related organizations to express its condolences when public and joint funerals have taken place for former Prime Ministers.

Kishida likely wants to ensure that the debate only focuses on the rules for future state funerals without delving into whether his decision regarding Abe’s funeral was appropriate.

However, Kishida must also address fundamental issues if he understands his responsibility to go ahead with the funeral without addressing the questions and doubts that have been raised, which has only deepened public mistrust. with regard to politics.

–The Asahi Shimbun, November 3

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