Demonstration mars Abe funeral

TOKYO (AFP) — Japanese and foreign dignitaries paid tribute to assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe at a controversial state funeral on Tuesday, 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 honor of the slain former leader.

The motorcade carrying his remains had traveled 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.

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 percent of Japanese against the event in recent polls.

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

Some lawmakers from opposition parties are also boycotting the funeral.

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

Kishida’s government may be hoping the solemnity of the event, attended by an estimated 4,300 people including 700 foreign invitees, will drown out the controversy.

United States Vice President Kamala Harris and world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian premier Anthony Albanese were among those in attendance.

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

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