The government is leaning toward adopting special legislation to enable the abdication of 82-year-old Emperor Akihito before discussing possible amendments to the Imperial House Law, sources said Monday.
Special legislation effective only for the current Emperor would not involve discussions on complicated Imperial House Law amendments, such as whether to set up a permanent abdication system, or whether to allow a married female member to stay within the Imperial family, the sources said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to clarify the planned legislation, telling a regular news conference, “We are now discussing various kinds of things.”
Currently, posthumous succession is effectively the only type allowed as the Imperial House Law, enacted in 1947, lacks a provision for abdication.
This means amendments or a special law would be necessary to enable the aging Emperor to step down.
Last month he indicated his readiness to abdicate in the future. In a rare video message to the public, he voiced concern that he could one day become unable to fulfill his role as the symbol of the state due to his advancing age.
“I am already 80 years old, and fortunately I am now in good health. However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now,” he said in the 10-minute speech, which was televised nationwide.
Calls for introducing special legislation have grown within the government, given largely positive opinion polls about the envisioned abdication, as well as the Emperor’s wishes and age, the sources said.
In a nationwide telephone survey by Kyodo News in August, 85.7 percent of the 1,008 respondents said abdication should be legalized as an option for the Emperor and his successors by revising the Imperial House Law.
Launching full discussions on wide-ranging amendments now would delay legislation enabling any abdication, according to the sources.
Other problems include deciding conditions for accepting an abdication and the Emperor’s title after retiring.
The government is considering submitting relevant bills to the Diet next year, the sources said.
Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, is first in line to the throne.
Of the 125 emperors to date, including ones whose actual existence is disputed, about half abdicated, although the most recent, Emperor Kokaku, was about 200 years ago.
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