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Diet members to begin discussing abdication law for Emperor

Kyodo

Members of both Diet chambers will soon begin discussions on possible legislation enabling Emperor Akihito to abdicate despite a range of differing opinions across the party spectrum, according to the speaker of the Lower House.

Representatives of the parties will meet Thursday to exchange opinions on how to proceed with discussions, Tadamori Oshima said Monday after a meeting of parliamentary heads.

“We believe all the parties think it’s necessary to draw a conclusion during the ordinary Diet session (that will run through June 18),” the speaker said.

In light of an emperor’s status deriving from “the will of the people” under the Constitution, Oshima said, “The legislature representing the people will make efforts to find the consensus of the people.”

Other participants in the meeting were Lower House Vice Speaker Tatsuo Kawabata, Upper House President Chuichi Date and Vice President Akira Gunji.

The meeting came a week before a government advisory panel releases an interim report summarizing its three months of discussions on issues pertaining to the 83-year-old Emperor Akihito’s abdication. The report is likely to emphasize the advantages of enacting special legislation applying only to him, a panel member said.

After the government panel releases a midterm report, the Diet’s leaders will likely hear opinions from the political parties and notify the government of them as early as mid-March, according to a source familiar with the plan.

After the panel crafts a final report, the government plans to submit a bill to the upcoming Diet session in mid-April, according to the source.

The issue of abdication arose after Emperor Akihito, citing his advanced age, strongly hinted at his desire to retire and turn over the throne to Crown Price Naruhito, 56, in a rare video message televised nationwide last August.

While the government envisions special one-off legislation to enable this Emperor to step down, the main opposition force, the Democratic Party, is insisting on a permanent system through revising the Imperial House Law, which currently does not provide an avenue for abdication.

Given the differences in approach, the Diet is seeking to lay the groundwork for smooth deliberations by holding prior negotiations between the ruling and opposition camps.

The 150-day Diet session begins Friday. Debate is expected to start after the advisory panel, which was established following the Emperor’s video message, releases the interim report next Monday.