Former PM Abe's funeral sparks controversy in Japan

    WORLD  27 September 2022 - 10:26

    Japanese and foreign dignitaries paid tribute to assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe at a controversial state funeral on September 27, as long lines of people gathered to offer flowers and prayers.

    Abe's ashes, carried by his widow Akie, arrived at the storied Budokan venue in Tokyo, where a 19-gun salute sounded in honour of the slain former leader, France 24 reports.

    The motorcade carrying his remains had travelled from his widow's home in the capital, past a row of white-uniformed armed troops who stood to attention.

    Outside the Budokan, thousands of Japanese people stood in line as the ashes arrived, waiting to deliver flowers and say a prayer in two mourning tents.

    Those opponents were also out, albeit in much smaller numbers, marching near the tents before an expected demonstration in front of the parliament.

    Abe was Japan's longest-serving prime minister and one of the country's most recognisable political figures, known for cultivating international alliances and his "Abenomics" economic strategy.

    He resigned in 2020 over recurring health problems, but remained a key political voice and was campaigning for his ruling party when a lone gunman killed him on July 8.

    The shooting sent shock waves through a country with famously low gun crime and prompted international condemnation.

    But the decision to give him a state funeral - only the second for a former premier in the post-war period - has provoked opposition, with around 60 per cent of Japanese against the event in recent polls.

    Thousands have protested the ceremony and a man set himself on fire last week near the prime minister's office, leaving notes reportedly expressing his objection to the event.

    Some lawmakers from opposition parties are also boycotting the funeral.

    The controversy has various causes, with some accusing Kishida of unilaterally approving the funeral instead of consulting parliament, and others resentful of a nearly $12 million price tag.

    It is also the legacy of Abe's divisive tenure, marked by persistent allegations of cronyism, and opposition to his nationalism and plans to reform the pacifist constitution.

     

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