The Japanese government announced on Tuesday that it would allocate an additional 1.4 billion yen ($9.97 million) for the state funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to cover security costs and accommodate dignitaries foreigners, bringing the total price to over 1.6 billion yen.
With growing opposition to the slain former leader’s state funeral, given his divisive political stances and various scandals, the much larger spending that pulls taxpayers’ money could trigger a strong backlash from from the public, observers said.
Late last month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration announced it would spend 249 million yen on the September 27 funeral of Abe, who was fatally shot by a lone gunman during a speech by election campaign in early July.
Kishida said at the time that the total cost would be made public after the funeral as it would vary depending on the number of foreign guests joining the event, but the government apparently felt compelled to announce the figure to advance given the intense public debate over the event.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference on Tuesday that 800 million yen will be used for security and 600 million for welcoming foreign dignitaries who are expected to travel to Tokyo from Tokyo. fifty countries.
Kishida also told reporters that the total amount released earlier today is an “estimate”, adding that it is “difficult to show” the exact figure unless you look at the actual cost after the state funeral is over.
Jun Azumi, Diet Affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the government, saying funeral costs had “inflated” by more than six times the figure originally reported.
Kishida said he was prepared to appear in parliamentary sessions scheduled for later this week to explain the holding of the second state funeral for a former prime minister in post-war Japan.
Earlier this month, a Tokyo-based company managed to organize the funeral. The company had been involved in much-criticized cherry blossom viewing parties that Abe hosted when he was prime minister.
Amid skepticism that the Kishida firm may have given the company preferential treatment in the selection process, Matsuno said on Monday the company was the sole bidder, making its selection automatic.
On Tuesday, the government also unveiled the schedule for state funerals. Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s immediate successor, will deliver a speech on behalf of Abe’s friends, in addition to the heads of the three branches of government.
The Self-Defense Forces will fire a funeral salute that day, but Kishida has pledged not to pressure citizens to publicly mourn Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
Abe, who died at 67, served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020. Suga served as Abe’s right-hand man for nearly eight years as chief cabinet secretary before taking over the reins in September 2020.
Meanwhile, some opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, have expressed their intention to boycott the funeral, saying it is unconstitutional.
Japan last held a state funeral in 1967 for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. He led the reconstruction of Japan from the ashes of World War II.
Kishida’s government has seen its approval ratings plummet recently amid the decision to hold a state funeral and public mistrust of the ruling party’s ties to a controversial religious group that became apparent after the killing of Kishida. ‘Abe.
The prime minister has asked his Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers to sever ties with the Unification Church. The group drew attention to “spiritual sales”, in which people are coerced into buying jars and other items at exorbitant prices.
Abe was targeted because of his alleged ties to the Unification Church, with the attacker, Tetsuya Yamagami, telling investigators after his arrest that his mother’s substantial donations to the church had ruined his finances. family.
In September 2021, Abe appeared in a video message broadcast at an event organized by a group affiliated with the Unification Church.
At a meeting of the party’s executive committee on Tuesday, Kishida called for all efforts to investigate the relationship between LDP lawmakers and the Unification Church, founded by a staunch anti-Communist and notorious for mass marriages , according to a meeting participant.
The ruling party is expected to release the results of the survey by the end of this week.
After Kishida reshuffled his cabinet and party leadership in August, it was revealed that many of those involved had ties to the Unification Church, now officially called the Federation of Families for world peace and unification.
The revelations add to evidence of what may be a densely intertwined network of contacts between LDP lawmakers and the Unification Church, established in South Korea in 1954 by the late Sun Myung Moon and branded a cult by critics. .