The government is considering dropping its plan to set and announce in September the dates of Emperor Akihito’s abdication and the start of a new era, sources said.
A decision on the schedule is likely to be postponed until later this year, the sources said Monday.
Officials believe they need to focus on stabilizing the political situation following the recent slide in approval ratings for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, the sources said.
The falling approval ratings also appear to have made Abe cautious about rushing to amend the Constitution. Earlier in August, Abe said there should be no predetermined time frame for constitutional amendments, departing from earlier comments pressing for quick action.
Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party faces crucial triple by-elections for the Lower House on Oct. 22.
The government had originally planned to convene a meeting of the Imperial House Council — a panel of Imperial family members and the heads of the Cabinet, Diet and the Supreme Court — on Sept. 4 to set the date for the Emperor’s abdication.
The government initially aimed to decide the date well in advance to allow for better preparations and to reduce the possible impact on people’s daily lives.
A delay could push back the announcement of the new era name, as well as preparations for the abdication, including the setup of support teams and the establishment of a residence for the Emperor after he steps down.
The government has so far discussed two possible scenarios for the dates of the abdication and the start of a new era. One involves the handover of the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito in late December 2018, with the new era starting on New Year’s Day in 2019. In the other plan, the succession would take place at the end of March 2019, with the new era starting on April 1, the beginning of fiscal 2019.
A special law to allow Emperor Akihito to step down enacted in June stipulates that the abdication will take place by June 2020 and that the government will fix the abdication date after consulting with the Imperial House Council.