• Kyodo

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A government panel investigating pathways to Emperor Akihito’s abdication will emphasize in a forthcoming interim report the merits of allowing him to step down through a one-off legal mechanism, a source said Thursday.

The panel, set up after the elderly Emperor, 83, hinted in a rare video last August that he wanted to pass the throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, is scheduled to release a report summarizing its three months of discussions on the issue on Monday.

The report will stress the difficulty of making abdication a permanent provision in Imperial succession, according to the government source.

The six-member panel, chaired by Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), has come to the view since last October that it would be difficult to codify conditions for abdication that will remain relevant and applicable to future emperors.

Some legal experts say that a permanent provision, which would involve revising the Imperial House Law, would be consistent with the Constitution because it stipulates the throne shall be “succeeded to in accordance” with the law.

While the report will list the advantages and disadvantages of both a one-time provision and a permanent arrangement, it will not list specific legislative approaches, such as enactment of a special law or a revision to the Imperial House Law, the source said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is reluctant to pursue an amendment, which would be time-consuming and is favored by some opposition parties, and instead envisions one-off legislation that would pave the way for just Emperor Akihito to abdicate. It hopes to garner support for this approach from both the ruling and opposition camps.

Also on Thursday, representatives of both the ruling and opposition camps gathered to exchange views on how to proceed with discussions on the matter.

At the center of the discussions is how to reconcile a range of opinions held among the ruling and opposition parties.

On Monday, when the panel’s report is to be released, Abe is expected to explain its contents to the Diet leaders and request Diet debate on the matter, according to a political source.

Following debate within each party, the Diet leaders will hear opinions from the parties as early as mid-February and then summarize the opinions in mid-March to report them to the government, the source said.

The government plans to submit a bill on the legislation to the Diet in April after the advisory panel issues its final report, according to the source.

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