VIENTIANE – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday the government is likely to seek expert views before deciding on its response to 82-year-old Emperor Akihito’s speech last month in which he indicated a readiness to abdicate.
Amid speculation special legislation is being envisioned to enable the move, Abe said on the sidelines of a summit in Laos: “It is important to hear the opinions of people, mainly experts, without prejudice.”
“I want to move the discussions forward calmly.”
In a rare public video message, the Emperor expressed concern about his ability to perform his duties as he ages.
However, he was careful not to explicitly call for an abdication-friendly legislative move and thus compromise his constitutional requirement not to interfere in affairs of government.
Abe said the nature of forthcoming consultation was yet to be decided, but acknowledged there was a variety of opinions among the public relating to potential amendments to the Imperial House Law, including whether to allow female members of the Imperial family to retain their status after marriage.
He indicated that the government intends to focus on the issue of the Emperor’s abdication for the time being.
“This time his majesty made his remarks, and the public has responded. Under these circumstances, we will think about what to do while hearing opinions from a wide variety of people,” Abe said.
Public opinion surveys show the Japanese public overwhelmingly supports enabling the Emperor to abdicate. The Imperial House Law has no provision regarding abdication, requiring either an amendment or special legislation to make it possible.
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