Experts call for Diet involvement in state funerals

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The stage for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral is seen at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on Sept. 27.

Many experts believe that involvement by the Diet is desirable when holding a state funeral, according to the results of opinion hearings released by the government on Thursday.

 The government interviewed experts in the field to review former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral. Following a split in public opinion over whether the funeral should have been held, the government compiled a list of pros and cons on the matter, along with many experts’ opinions urging Diet involvement in the future.

 Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Thursday, “We will discuss what procedures should be taken, including [in terms of] the relationship with the Diet,” after hearing opinions from the ruling and opposition parties.

The government conducted in-person interviews with 21 experts — including constitutional and administrative law specialists and media representatives — after Abe’s Sept. 27 funeral. The opinions were sorted based on the following six agenda items: the significance of the funeral, the Diet’s involvement, the criteria for which deceased people are eligible for the honor, the legal basis and relationship with the Constitution, the understanding of the public, and the appropriateness of the cost and scale.

 While many respondents took a positive view of the significance of Abe’s state funeral, with remarks such as that the event “filled the people’s sense of loss” and “showed the government’s commitment not to bow to terrorism,” there were criticisms as well, with Chuo University Prof. Junichi Miyama saying, “It created a negative legacy that only left the public in conflict.”

 As for who should be eligible for a state funeral, many respondents were negative about establishing criteria in advance, with Seikei University Prof. Shinichiro Takeda saying, “It is difficult to reach a consensus on who should be the subject.” Several commented that prime minister and the Cabinet at the time should be responsible for making the decision.

In regard to public understanding, some stated that the government should have provided more detailed explanations.

 The cost of Abe’s funeral was revised down from about ¥1.24 billion as a preliminary figure to ¥1.2 billion in conjunction with the release of the hearings’ results. Reitaku University Prof. Kazuhisa Kawakami said the amount was “reasonable,” while others demanded that the political party concerned should shoulder a certain amount.

Looking ahead, the focus is on the relationship between a state funeral and the Diet. The majority of the respondents called for the Diet’s involvement in the process of deciding on a state funeral, which was also clearly stressed in a report on the matter released by the House of Representatives on Dec. 10.

 However, a senior Liberal Democratic Party official said, “It is difficult to find common ground between the ruling and opposition parties on how the Diet should be involved specifically.”

In fact, there is little momentum for deeper discussion between the ruling and opposition parties, and it is unclear to what extent concrete rules can be presented.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks Thursday at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office.