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Diet lawmakers send proposal on Emperor’s abdication to Abe

Kyodo

The ruling and opposition parties on Friday adopted the Diet’s proposal over Emperor Akihito’s possible abdication, calling for the government to enact a special law applying only to him.

The lawmakers’ consensus on the issue will pave the way for the 83-year-old Emperor to relinquish the throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, in what would be the first succession of a living emperor in about 200 years.

The chiefs and deputy chiefs of both Diet chambers gave the proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.

The Diet’s draft proposal, presented to political parties and groups Wednesday, urged the government to take legal measures allowing the Emperor to step down against the backdrop of widespread public understanding of his position following a video message last summer in which he signaled his hope to retire due to his concerns over his advanced age.

Currently, only posthumous succession is allowed under the Imperial House Law, which sets out rules for imperial affairs and lacks a provision regarding abdication.

The draft also stated that the parties and political groups shared the view that the government should launch a debate over retaining princesses as Imperial family members even after marriage to commoners by establishing their branches. This should take place “immediately” after the envisioned abdication law is enacted, it said.

The move is aimed at securing the stable succession of the Chrysanthemum Throne, which is currently limited to male heirs only.

Given the compilation of the Diet’s opinions, an advisory panel to the government on the Emperor’s abdication will resume its own discussions next Wednesday with a view to publishing its final report in late next month.

The government is then expected to submit a special one-off abdication bill to the Diet, possibly after the Golden Week holidays wrap up in early May. It hopes to see the bill passed during the current Diet session, which runs through mid-June.

Although the timing of the abdication has not been formally decided, the government is apparently eyeing the Emperor’s 85th birthday — Dec. 23, 2018 — given his video message remarks alluding to that date, which would be the 30th year of the current Heisei Era.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party sought the one-off law believing that a revision to the Imperial House Law would be overly complex and time-consuming.

The main opposition Democratic Party, however, had argued that the law should be amended as Emperor Akihito’s abdication under such special legislation could violate Article 2 of the Constitution. That article stipulates that matters of succession must follow the Imperial House Law.

The two sides recently reached a compromise deal by adding a supplementary provision to the Imperial House Law, which was included in the Diet’s proposal, to provide a legal basis for the special law.