Regarding how to cope with Imperial abdication — an issue that Emperor Akihito raised in his video message last August citing a “decline in my fitness level because of my advancing age” — the Liberal Democratic Party favors enacting a special law applicable solely to him —a view shared by its coalition partner Komeito and the conservative Nippon Ishin no Kai. The Democratic Party and other opposition parties call for revising the Imperial House Law, which sets the rules for Imperial succession but does not provide for an emperor stepping down. This week, the speaker and vice speaker of the Lower House and the president and vice president of the Upper House sounded out the position of each party on the issue — an unusual move to take before a bill has even been submitted to the Diet.
What’s worrying about the process is that the question of Imperial abdication is being discussed without the inclusion of the public. The Abe administration and the political parties should discuss the issue in a manner open to the public in order to get public opinions reflected in the decision on a matter that concerns the foundation of the Imperial system under Japan’s constitutional democracy. Government leaders and lawmakers should pay heed to Article 1 of the Constitution, which says an emperor derives “his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.”