Japanese cabinet approves bill allowing emperor's abdication
May 20, 2017, 00:26
The existing law does not allow a living monarch to hand over the throne, but the 83-year-old emperor said in an address last August his health was failing and hinted he would like to pass the title on to his eldest son. It would be the first abdication in the Japanese monarchy in almost 200 years. Next in line for succession is Crown Prince Naruhito, who is 57.
The bill approving Akihito's abdication is reported to be specifically designed for the current emperor so as to prevent others following suit.
"The government hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. Because women are not allowed to take the throne and because they become "commoners" after marriage, the family has shrunk to only 19 members and only four heirs. The current imperial household law, passed in 1947, has no provision for abdication. Thus, Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, can not succeed her father.
"When the emperor first hinted that we might think about his abdication, most people were shocked because we were not prepared to hear that, but now many Japanese people support his idea", Yoshiki Mine, president of Institute for Peaceful Diplomacy in Tokyo, said.
Earlier this year reports suggested that Akihito could step down at the end of December 2018 and be replaced by Crown Prince Naruhito on January 1, 2019.
The cabinet's draft bill for the Emperor's abdication will now be submitted for both the upper and lower houses of parliament to debate before becoming law.
These problems have recently been highlighted when Akihito's granddaughter, Princess Mako, 25, announced three days ago that she plans to marry her college friend, which will result in the princess losing her royal status. Princess Mako's brother, 10-year-old Hisahito, is the fourth heir to the throne and the only boy in his generation.
Only men are allowed to become emperor under current law, though Japan has been ruled by empresses in past centuries.
After the envisioned abdication, the emperor and empress are expected to move to Togu Palace in the Akasaka Estate in Tokyo's Minato Ward, where the crown prince and his family now live, and the new emperor's family will move to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.
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