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Editorial: Japan PM's rashness in holding state funeral for ex-PM Abe sows distrust

The state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be held on Sept. 27. It will be staged under abnormal circumstances, with opposition to the event spreading day by day.

    At a time when shock from the fatal shooting of Abe was still fresh, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida settled on holding the state funeral via a Cabinet decision without going through the Diet. The lack of democratic discussion in the process has invited public distrust.

    Why is a state funeral being held for Abe in the first place? Just a day before the funeral, the biggest question remains unanswered.

    The are many problems with holding a state funeral for a politician without clear standards or legal grounds. Prime Minister Kishida stated that it "should be left to the government at the time to decide comprehensively" whether to have a state funeral. Such an approach allows arbitrary actions to go unchecked.

    The only other postwar Japanese prime minister to be given a state funeral was Shigeru Yoshida, in 1967. At that time, too, the Cabinet's decision to go ahead with the funeral at its own discretion was a problem.

    Since the funeral of former Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira in 1980, joint funerals in which the government and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) each share half of the cost have been the norm. The introduction of this system was a form of "political wisdom" to gain understanding from opposition parties, but Prime Minister Kishida has ignored this custom. If it turns out that he hastily made the state funeral decision out of consideration for Abe's conservative base, then it could only be described as thoughtless.

    One reason for growing opposition to the funeral is the discovery of Abe's close ties to the Unification Church, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. The notion of holding a state funeral for such a person contradicts the policy of the LDP, which has declared that it will "sever ties" with the Unification Church.

    Prime Minister Kishida said that he would carefully explain why a state funeral was being held for Abe, but has not done so. In Diet questioning a month and a half after the decision was made, he merely repeated previous explanations.

    The Mainichi Shimbun's most recent opinion poll found that 62% of respondents were opposed to the state funeral, while just 27% supported it. The fact that opposition to the state funeral increased following Diet question time suggests that the more explanations the prime minister gave, the more doubts and contradictions emerged.

    Executive members of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, have decided to skip the state funeral. There have even been moves among former Cabinet members in the LDP to refrain from attending. It appears that the state funeral is deepening public division.

    In light of public opinion, the government is not requesting cooperation from local bodies and other parties in offering condolences, and it now seems that it will be a state funeral in name only. The prime minister bears a heavy responsibility for being preoccupied with the form of the funeral and thus undermining the environment for mourning.

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