Most Japanese support the creation of a permanent system to let emperors abdicate, a survey showed Monday, highlighting the public’s aversion to the government’s plan to enact a one-off abdication law applicable only to Emperor Akihito.
In a survey by Kyodo News covering 3,000 people 18 or older, 68 percent of respondents said the Imperial House Law should be revised to enable future emperors to relinquish the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Just 25 percent said that abdication should be legislated on a one-off basis, while 4 percent said Japan should not allow abdication at all.
The Diet’s ruling and opposition parties on March 17 adopted a proposal calling on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to enact special one-off legislation to let 83-year-old Emperor Akihito step down following a rare video message he gave last summer hinting at his desire to retire due to advanced age.
The government’s proposal was adopted by lawmakers while the survey was being carried out from March 8 to April 14.
On April 21, a government advisory panel on abdication compiled a set of proposals on altering the Imperial system after Emperor Akihito’s envisioned abdication under the special-case legislation.
The process of legalizing his abdication was debated by the panel because succession to the throne is currently only allowed after death, since the Imperial House Law lacks a provision on abdication.
Despite there being only two members of the Imperial family younger than 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito in line for the throne, the panel’s proposal did not address potential solutions but only called for a deeper debate at both the government and public levels.
After Emperor Akihito’s abdication, Prince Hisahito, 10, Prince Akishino’s only son, will be second in line to the throne. He is the only male member of the Imperial family of his generation.
The survey showed strong public support for having a female emperor or an emperor of female lineage, both of which are prohibited by law.
In the survey, 86 percent supported allowing a woman to assume the Imperial throne and 59 percent supported bringing about both a female emperor and an emperor of female lineage.
As for retaining princesses as members of the Imperial family by enabling them to establish their branches even after they marry commoners, 62 percent supported such branch establishment and 35 percent opposed it.
On the debate about potential legal pathways to the ascension of female Imperial members, 61 percent said discussion should be started after Emperor Akihito abdicates and 28 percent said it should be carried out in parallel with discussions about the abdication.
Earlier this year, Abe said giving Imperial status to those who are in collateral branches that have already left the family is one option, but only 22 percent supported it and 72 percent opposed it.