The Japanese government is considering special legislation to enable the abdication of 82-year-old Emperor Akihito before discussing possible amendments to the Imperial House Law, government sources said Monday.
Special legislation effective only for the current emperor would not involve discussions on complicated Imperial House Law amendments, such as whether to set up a permanent abdication system, or whether to allow a married female member to stay within the imperial family, they said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to clarify the planned legislation, telling a press conference, “We are now discussing various kinds of things.”
Currently, only posthumous succession is effectively allowed as the Imperial House Law, enacted in 1947, lacks a provision regarding abdication.
Amendments or creation or special law would thus be necessary to enable the aging emperor to step down.
The emperor last month indicated his readiness to abdicate in the future, voicing concern in a rare video message to the public that he could one day become unable to fulfill his role as the symbol of the state because of his age.
Calls for introducing special legislation have grown within the government, given public opinion polls largely positive about the envisioned abdication, as well as the emperor’s desire and age, the sources said.
Launching full discussions on amendments now would delay legislation enabling abdication, according to the sources. Such debates are likely to take place after the enactment of special legislation is in sight.
Remaining problems include conditions for accepting an abdication and the emperor’s title after retiring.
The government is considering submitting relevant bills to the ordinary Diet session next year, the sources said.
Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, is first in line to the throne.
Of the 125 Japanese emperors so far, including ones whose existence is disputed, about half have abdicated, although the last to abdicate was Emperor Kokaku about 200 years ago.