Amid high-security measures, people and politicians in Japan are debating the high costs incurred by holding a state funeral for slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Facing criticism from the public and politicians, the funeral, to be held in a park near the Nippon Budokan Hall in the capital Tokyo on Tuesday, will cost around 1.66 billion yen ($11.6 million).
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said a state funeral for Abe, who was assassinated in July, is being held to “defend democracy.”
But Japan’s opposition parties blasted Abe’s nationalistic views on history and security.
Japanese Communist Party will boycott the state funeral, saying the event is “unconstitutional.”
Around 400,000 signatures, collected in July and August, on a petition were submitted to Kishida’s office against holding the event.
Many say Abe’s government “was a nightmare for the public,” according to Japanese freelance journalist Akihiro Otani.
In the parliament, Kenta Izumi, who leads the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, lambasted the government’s decision to “forcefully hold the event without consulting with the parliament while giving special treatment to Abe.”
There is no legal basis to hold a state funeral for a former prime minister in Japan, he added.
Over 30 foreign dignitaries, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, prime ministers of Australia, India, South Korea, Cambodia, and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach are among the foreign guests slated to attend the funeral.
Japan’s longest-serving premier, Abe, 67, was shot during an election campaign speech in the western city of Nara in early July. He succumbed to his injuries in a hospital hours later.
Tetsuya Yamagami, the 41-year-old assailant, named a religious group, Unification Church, as a reason behind the fatal attack on Abe.
Abe was said to have links with the Unification Church, now known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, whose followers have been convicted in Japan for illegally obtaining money from people “through the use of threats, including the citing of ancestral karma.”
It has triggered massive criticism of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), about half of whose lawmakers have ties to the religious group.
Kishida, in an attempt to delink his government from the group, announced a new cabinet and all of them, besides the LDP office bearers, are required to review any links to the Unification Church.
About 179 of the 379 party lawmakers have reported having links to the Unification Church.
Abe led the LDP successfully in six national elections since 2012.
Political observers told Tokyo-based Kyodo News that the former leader “tried to thoroughly eliminate his political enemies, deprived voters, bureaucrats and lawmakers of their rightful freedom to operate in a democracy.”
State funerals are reserved only for members of Japan’s imperial family.
Since World War II, only one politician was given this honor in 1967. He was Yoshida Shigeru who served Japan as a prime minister for seven years in two terms – from 1946 to 1954 – and negotiated the end of the US occupation and Japan’s regaining independence.