Japan cabinet approves bill to allow emperor to abdicate
Japan cabinet approves bill to allow emperor to abdicate
Reports of emperor Akihito's desire to retire surprised Japan
19 May, 2017, 07:09
In a historic move, the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday approved a bill allowing Emperor Akihito to abdicate the Chrysanthemum throne and hand over duties to Crown Prince Naruhito. It will now be sent to parliament for debate and final approval.
"The government hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
The government envisions December 2018, when Emperor Akihito turns 85 years old, as a possible timing for his abdication in favour of Crown Prince Naruhito.
Currently, only posthumous succession is allowed as the Imperial House Law, which stipulates imperial matters, lacks a provision regarding an abdication by a reigning emperor.
Emperor Akihito has sought to soothe the wounds at home and overseas of World War Two, which was fought in his father Hirohito's name, and to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people.
Japan's Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers as he and family members appear on the balcony of the Imperial Palace during the emperor's birthday in Tokyo.
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Women are not allowed to inherit the throne and so Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, can not succeed her father. It cited a senior imperial household agency official as saying that it would be "difficult" for the crown prince to begin his reign as the new emperor on Jan 1, 2019, as had been previously reported, due to New Year's Day events.
The abdication bill was written with just the current emperor in mind, as the government does not want to set a precedent for future emperors abdicating. The government is also planning to hold an abdication ceremony for the first time in around two centuries by studying ceremonial practices in the past.
A government panel in April issued a warning over the dwindling number of male heirs.
The discussion about the role of royal women arose again this week when it was announced that Princess Mako - Akihito's eldest grandchild - was to be engaged to a commoner.
There are only four heirs in the line of succession - Akihito's two middle-aged sons, Akihito's octogenarian brother, and Hisahito, the 10-year-old son of Akihito's younger son.
Many Japanese believe the sustainability of the throne can be solved by allowing for female succession, but traditionalists vehemently oppose the idea.
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