Shinzo Abe’s state funeral plan faces growing opposition | Shinzo Abe

Opposition is mounting to plans to hold a state funeral for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead earlier this month.

The cabinet on Friday approved arrangements for the funeral – only the second of its kind for a former post-war Japanese leader – on September 27.

Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, died a fortnight ago after being shot from behind while delivering a campaign speech in the western city of Nara.

His violent death shocked a country with negligible rates of gun crime and sparked a debate over how best to honor the memory of the influential but divisive politician.

Abe served as prime minister for more than eight years across two terms and was hugely influential within the ruling Liberal Democrat party even after stepping down in 2020.

Government officials pleaded for a state funeral, to be held at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo, saying Abe had shown “outstanding leadership” in reviving Japan’s economy, strengthening its security ties with the United States and the supervision of the reconstruction of the destroyed region. by the triple catastrophe of March 2011.

“We made this decision…because of Abe’s record as the longest-serving prime minister, during which he exercised leadership skills distinct from others and carried the heavy responsibility of addressing a number of national issues. and serious international affairs,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu said. Matsuno said Friday.

Matsuno said the event would be “non-denominational, simple and somber”, adding that the estimated cost and number of attendees had yet to be decided.

Opposition politicians and civic groups have questioned the use of taxpayers’ money for the funeral, where guests are expected to include foreign leaders.

They also said the public was deeply divided over Abe’s legacy. “This clearly violates the freedom of thought and conscience protected by the constitution,” Mizuho Fukushima, who leads the opposition Social Democratic Party, told about 200 people protesting outside the prime minister’s office on Friday.

The Asahi Shimbun said he opposed any attempt to pressure people to mourn Abe. “We can’t help but worry that, according to [him] such special treatment will only widen the gap between those who have supported Abe and those who have not, and will hamper an objective assessment of a political leader,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

On Thursday, 50 people filed for an injunction with the Tokyo District Court seeking an end to the use of public funds for the event, saying a state-sponsored funeral without parliamentary approval violated the constitutional right to freedom of belief.

A recent poll by public broadcaster NHK found just 49 per cent backed the idea of ​​a state funeral for Abe, which has inspired outright loyalty among his party’s right-wingers but horror among critics at home and abroad. for his shameless nationalism.

Social media users complained about the cost and the possibility the event could be exploited to celebrate Abe’s brand of conservatism and glorify his political legacy.

A Twitter user singled out current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – an Abe protege who supports holding a state funeral – for his criticism.

“Kishida always brags about listening to people, so why doesn’t he now?”

Others pitted the government’s swift decision on Abe’s funeral arrangements against the lack of action during the latest wave of Covid-19, with daily cases at record highs.

“Given that they are doing next to nothing about the pandemic, how did they manage to decide so quickly?” wrote one Twitter user. “Take the money you will use for the funeral and do something about the coronavirus.”

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A private funeral for Abe took place last week at a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, as large crowds gathered in the street to offer flowers.

The only other post-war Japanese leader to receive a state funeral, in 1967, was Shigeru Yoshida, who led the country after World War II.

Abe’s suspected killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he had targeted him for his ties to the Unification Church. He reportedly said his mother made huge donations to the church two decades ago which left the family bankrupt.

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