Gov’t to take emperor abdication bill to Diet on May 19

The government is preparing to submit a special bill to the Diet as early as May 19 to enable Emperor Akihito to abdicate, aiming to have it passed by the end of the current parliamentary session through June 18, sources close to the matter said Monday.

The bill is expected to call for one-off legislation applying only to the present emperor, reflecting an agreement reached last month by Diet members and the final proposals a government advisory panel is scheduled to compile on Friday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will outline the bill later this month and present it to political parties in the Diet to hear their views, before it seeks approval at a Cabinet meeting, according to the sources.

In accepting the parliament’s proposals in March, Abe expressed willingness to enact the legislation, saying, “I solemnly accept it and will immediately get to work on crafting the bill.”

The government plans to allow the 83-year-old emperor to abdicate on the day the law enters into force, within three years after it is promulgated, the sources said. Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne.

As the Japanese Constitution stipulates the emperor’s status derives from “the will of the people,” the Diet is seeking to realize the wishes of the emperor to retire on a unanimous vote or a vote close to it.

The government is expected to compile the draft bill after Japan’s Golden Week holidays end in early May and share it with political parties and groups in the Diet.

It is rare for the government to present the contents of a bill to opposition parties in advance, mirroring the government’s aim to have the bill passed in a smooth manner by forming a prior consensus.

The Imperial House Law that sets out rules for imperial affairs currently only allows succession following the death of an emperor.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been mulling the legal changes following the emperor’s rare video message last summer indicating his desire to step down due to his advanced age.

© KYODO

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