National / Politics

Diet chiefs try to unite parties on emperor abdication issue but consensus eludes

Kyodo

The Diet on Monday remained divided by the abdication issue after political parties held separate hearings with the heads of both chambers, participants said.

The sessions were part of legislative leaders’ efforts to iron out differences between the ruling and opposition parties, but the continued lack of consensus suggests more talks are needed before a bill can submitted.

Representatives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said the LDP supports a one-off legal mechanism that would let the 83-year-old Emperor Akihito abdicate and make way for Crown Prince Naruhito, 56.

Its smaller ally, Komeito, explained during its hearing with the chamber heads that it concurs with the LDP.

The Emperor signaled in a rare video message last August that he was growing too frail to fulfill his public duties and would like to step aside. Abe’s government favors doing that through one-off legislation.

But the Democratic Party, the main opposition force, advocates installing a permanent mechanism for abdication by revising the Imperial House Law, which has no abdication provision. This means an emperor must die in order to step down.

DP Secretary-General Yoshihiko Noda said he called on the two Diet chiefs to create an opportunity for all parties to discuss the issue, instead of holding separate hearings.

The Japanese Communist Party also favors amending the Imperial Household Law to permanently permit abdication.

Some legal experts and the Democratic Party are concerned that any special abdication legislation might violate the Constitution, which stipulates that the Chrysanthemum Throne shall be “succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial House Law.”

In light of that, LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura said after the party’s hearing with the Diet chiefs that he thinks it is necessary to clarify the relationship between any special law and the Imperial Household Law.

Komeito deputy chief Kazuo Kitagawa said Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima asked the party whether it would be feasible to add a supplementary clause to the law that would provide the legal basis for a special abdication law — an idea that has been considered by the ruling bloc.

“There is room to study,” Kitagawa said in response.

The Diet heads are hoping to enact the special legislation soon and are making a rare attempt to reconcile each parties’ opinions before drafting the bill, lawmakers said.

Oshima and others plan to compile the Diet’s consensus opinion as early as next month.

In January, a government advisory panel released an interim report promoting the use of one-off abdication legislation that would apply only to Emperor Akihito.

The government plans to submit the special legislation to the Diet sometime between late April and early May, political sources said.

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