Monday, 26 June, 2017

Japan's cabinet approves Emperor Akihito abdication bill

Japan's government has approved a one-off bill which if passed will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. AGENCIES Japan's government has approved a one-off bill which if passed will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. AGENCIES
Christy Curtis | 20 May, 2017, 01:55

Emperor Akihito's desire was interpreted as his wish to hand the crown to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

Earlier this year reports suggested that 83-year-old Akihito could step down at the end of December 2018 and be replaced by Crown Prince Naruhito on January 1, 2019.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet signed off on the legislation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

The bill allows only for the abdication of Akihito, who says he fears his age might make it hard to fulfill his duties.

The timing of the emperor's retirement will be set by a government ordinance after the enactment and promulgation of the abdication law.

Akihito, who has had heart surgery and prostate cancer treatment, said in rare public remarks previous year he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfil his duties.

One of the major disputed points had been whether to create a permanent abdication system for every emperor, or just a mechanism to enable only the current emperor to abdicate.

A government panel in April issued a warning over the dwindling number of male heirs. The bill in its current form does no such thing, but the opposition Democratic Party has been advocating for debate on allowing princesses to remain in the royal family after they marry commoners.

The bill also did not mention about the imperial family allowing women to stay in the palace upon marriage, Reuters noted. It adds, "General members of the public understand the Emperor's position and feel sympathy for him", in explaining the process leading up to his retirement. Princess Mako's brother, 10-year-old Hisahito, is the fourth heir to the throne and the only boy in his generation.

Only males can inherit the throne and there was a succession crisis until 2006 as both the emperor's sons had only daughters. This is the first such abdication in the country in nearly two centuries.

Empress Michiko will be given a new title, "jokogo", which means "wife of joko" after her husband's abdication. Thus, Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, can not succeed her father.

The bill is expected to be scrutinized by the parliament later in the day, the national Kyodo news agency reported.

The crown prince has one teenage daughter, Aiko, who can not inherit the throne. Prince Akishino's annual budget allocation for private expenses will increase threefold to 91.5 million yen ($822,000), according to the bill.

Tokoro noted that before the current law was put in place in 1947, Japan had eight female emperors - who "did wonderful jobs".

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