Experts on a government-commissioned panel held their first meeting Monday to study how to accommodate Emperor Akihito’s apparent abdication wish, in a country where he is not supposed to say anything political.
Unlike many European countries where abdication of kings and queens are relatively common, Japan’s modern imperial law doesn’t allow abdication, and Japan’s postwar Constitution stipulates the emperor as mere “symbol” with no political power or a say.
Allowing Akihito to abdicate would be a major change to the system, and raises a series of legal and logistical questions, ranging from laws subject to change to the emperor’s post-abdication role, his title and residence.
The six panel members — five academics and a business organization executive — are to compile a report early next year after interviewing specialists on the Constitution, monarchy and history.
Akihito, 82, suggested his wish to abdicate in his rare video message to the public in August, citing his age and concern that he may not be able to fulfil his official duties. His message was subtle and the Emperor did not use the word “abdication,” because saying that openly could have violated his Constitutional status.
The government reportedly wants to allow Akihito’s abdication as an exception and enact a special law to avoid dealing with divisive issues such as possible female succession and lack of successors.
Akihito suggested in his speech a need to consider how to make the succession process smoother. He recalled the difficulties he faced when his father, Hirohito, died in 1989 while he was largely serving as a substitute. He said he doesn’t wish to cling to his title if his responsibilities have to be severely reduced and he has to rely on a regent.
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