The government is considering paving the way for future emperors to abdicate as its advisory panel debates drafting special legislation to let Emperor Akihito step aside, according to sources close to the matter.
The Abe administration has been opposed to creating a permanent system for abdication on the grounds that it is difficult to set conditions that would always prove suitable in the future. Such a system would require revising the Imperial House Law.
The panel is expected to release a report later this month summarizing the issues surrounding abdication and support the idea of drafting special legislation that would apply only to Emperor Akihito, who is 83.
The government is now studying the possibility of attaching a supplementary provision to the Imperial House Law that would say emperors can abdicate when allowed by special legislation. That would effectively establish a permanent system to permit abdication, a source familiar with the panel’s discussions said.
This proposal arose from concerns that drafting special legislation would violate the Constitution, which stipulates that the Chrysanthemum Throne shall be “succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial House Law.”
The administration is expected to submit a bill on the legislation to the Diet in April.
Opinion polls have shown that the public generally supports the idea of drafting new legislation that would let all future emperors abdicate.
A Jiji Press survey conducted from Dec. 9 to Dec. 12 on 2,000 people found that 61 percent back a permanent law that would allow Emperor Akihito and all future emperors to abdicate, while 21.6 percent support the idea of a special law that would be apply only to him. Valid responses were obtained from 62.3 percent of those interviewed.
At present, an emperor must die in order to relinquish the throne.
The Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, advocates that a permanent system needs to be established by revising the Imperial House Law.
The abdication issue arose after Emperor Akihito, in a rare video message last August, hinted that he wanted to step down.