• Politics & Government

Amari to give speech for Abe at lower house plenary session

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Akira Amari appears on a live TV program at LDP headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 31, 2021.

Akira Amari, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, is to deliver a parliamentary speech mourning former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a plenary session of the House of Representatives, according to LDP sources. Abe was shot dead earlier this month.

Amari, known as a close ally of Abe, played an instrumental role in promoting the Abenomics economic policy when Abe was prime minister.

Amari served as economy, trade and industry minister in the first Abe administration, which began in September 2006.

When Abe returned to the LDP presidency in September 2012 while the LDP was an opposition party, Amari served as chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council. In the second Abe administration, launched in December of that year, he became minister in charge of economic revitalization, the command post for economic policy.

Amari and Abe, together with LDP Vice President Taro Aso, were referred to as the “Three A’s.”

The LDP intends to hold the memorial speech on Aug. 5. Opposition parties such as the largest Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) are against the selection of Amari as the person to give the memorial speech. They also are against the holding of a state-funded memorial service.

Wishes of bereaved family

The LDP’s decision to have Amari deliver the eulogy came as Abe’s family wanted his close ally to take the podium.

When Abe’s office confirmed the wishes of Abe’s widow, Akie Abe, she requested that Amari deliver the memorial speech, according to an LDP official.

A board meeting of the Rules and Administration Committee of the lower house agreed in January 1998 that a person who gives a memorial speech would be selected based on “respect for the wishes of the bereaved family.”

The LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Tsuyoshi Takagi told reporters at the Diet Building on Tuesday, “The most appropriate thing is that the wishes of the bereaved family are respected above all else.”

Some LDP party members voiced their opinion that Aso, who had also served as prime minister, would be the most appropriate person to give the eulogy.

Yet, it is believed that the party took balance into consideration, given that Aso already delivered a eulogy at Abe’s funeral service on July 12.

Memorial speeches at a lower house’s plenary session are given when an incumbent lower house member passes away. Abe was a lower house member representing a constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Before the introduction of the single-seat constituency system 26 years ago, lower house members represented multiple-seat constituencies, often serving beside members of other parties whom they had vied against in elections. When a lower house member from that era died, it was customary for a member of another party from the same constituency to give the speech. If the deceased member was an incumbent or former prime minister, the leader of the main party from across the aisle would do the honors. In this way, the expression of condolences transcended party affiliation.

Since the shift to a single-seat constituency system, no members of other parties are seated along with them, although sometimes a runner-up in such a race may win a seat through the proportional representation section. Under the circumstances, memorial speeches have become more often delivered by fellow members of the same political party.

In the five years from 2018 to this year, memorial speeches were delivered at plenary sessions of the lower house on five occasions. In each case, an LDP member delivered the speech for another party member who had died — such as former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi’s memorial speech for former reconstruction minister Wataru Takeshita, who passed away in 2021.

In addition to these circumstances, the LDP selected a person to deliver the speech from within the party this time, apparently mindful of the CDPJ’s opposition to conducting a state memorial service for Abe.

When Takagi met with his CDPJ counterpart Sumio Mabuchi on Tuesday, Takagi said that the LDP intends to deliver the memorial speech on Aug. 5. Mabuchi, however, was not in agreement, saying, “It is not reasonable to hold a memorial address as the government has yet to fulfill its accountability for the state memorial service.”

CDPJ Secretary General Chinami Nishimura urged the LDP to reconsider having Amari give the speech, saying: “It is customary for a member of another party to give a memorial speech. I must say that the memorial speech as planned is just for the LDP.”