Japan to bid farewell to former PM Shinzo Abe

Amid tight security, about 4,300 attendees will be gathering Tuesday in Tokyo to pay their respects at a state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July while campaigning for an election.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo are among about 700 foreign dignitaries from 218 countries, regions and international organizations planning to attend.

The general public will be able to lay flowers at a nearby park, while rallies protesting the controversial state funeral are also planned in Tokyo and elsewhere.

The state funeral will be a three-hour ceremony held at the Nippon Budokan. About 20,000 police officers will be mobilized to ensure security in the capital.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who served as chief Cabinet secretary under Abe for nearly eight years, will be offering eulogies.

It is the second time a former prime minister has been honored with a state funeral under the current Constitution, after one was held for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida in 1967.

Traditionally, funerals for former prime ministers have been jointly held by the government and their political party, but Kishida decided to hold a state funeral for Abe to honor his legacy.

However, the decision has been criticized for a variety of reasons, such as the lack of a clear legal basis for holding a state funeral, that it could force the public to mourn Abe despite his divisive legacy, and that it will be costly compared with a funeral jointly held with the LDP.

Kishida has said that a law on the government’s management of national ceremonies gives it the authority to hold a state funeral, and that the public will not be asked to engage in expressions of mourning. The government has also said the state funeral will cost about ¥1.6 billion (about $11.1 million), including security costs.

But some opposition party lawmakers, including Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Kenta Izumi, have said they will boycott the ceremony, since they remain unconvinced by the government’s explanation.

In July, Abe was shot dead while he was campaigning in the Upper House election, with the alleged shooter claiming he held a grudge against Abe after the former leader sent a supportive message to a group tied to the controversial Unification Church. The suspect said his mother had bankrupted the family due to excessive donations to the group.

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