Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been presented with a Diet proposal requesting his government prepare a one-off legislation to allow 83-year-old Emperor Akihito to abdicate.
On Friday 17 March weeks of political discussions came to an end when the ruling and opposition parties reached a compromise on the issue and made the choice to add a supplementary provision to the Imperial House Law. This will allow the legislation to serve as a precedent for the future and make it possible for Emperor Akihito to hand over his throne to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima presented the proposal to Prime Minister Abe who that the emperor’s abdication is ‘a grave matter’ and that he will ‘take the consensus solemnly and will immediately begin working on a bill’.
The Diet proposal addresses the abdication situation, urging the government to implement legal measures that will allow the emperor to step down, as well as the issue of imperial succession. Currently limited to male heirs the imperial succession is in danger and so the proposal advises allowing princesses to remain members of the royal family, which would establish new branches.
Now that the formal proposal has been created a special advisory committee will discuss the proposal and publish a report on its findings by the end of April. The government will then have the opportunity to submit a one-off abdication bill to the Diet in early May. A timeline for abdication will not be stated in the special legislation bill but all involved will be very aware of the emperor’s impending 85th birthday on 23 December 2018. This will see Japan enter the 30th year of the Heisei era.
In Japan each emperor’s rein is assigned a ‘gengo’ era name and the current Heisei era began on 8 January 1989 when Emperor Akihito took the throne following the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito. The government is now contemplating the idea of changing the era at the beginning of 2019 rather than mid-year, which is when the succession between Emperor Akihito and Crown Prince Naruhito may take place. As changes in the era name can have significant impact on people, the government will announce the new era name months before the envisioned abdication.