The ruling coalition and main opposition parties agreed Tuesday to call on the government to launch a debate on enabling princesses to stay within the imperial family by establishing family branches of their own after they marry commoners, as part of efforts to address the problem of a shrinking royal clan, a participant in their meeting said.
Ending two-day negotiations, representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party decided to put the idea in a special resolution attached to a forthcoming bill on Emperor Akihito's abdication, the participant said, while adding the resolution does not say when such a debate should start.
Under the current law, princesses have to leave the imperial family upon their marriage.
With the agreement setting in motion Diet deliberation over the bill in the House of Representatives from Thursday, the Abe government is expected to ensure the enactment of the special resolution within the current Diet session through June 18.
The bill will address the 83-year-old emperor's abdication, for which he has signaled his desire, because currently there is no legal provision that enables an emperor to abdicate.
The government is supposed to "consider various issues to secure stable imperial succession, including creating female branches," according to an agreed resolution proposed by Tsutomu Sato, chairman of the lower house steering committee.
But it also says the government has to consider those issues "directly after the enforcement of the legislation and report the result to the Diet immediately," without specifying the deadline. The Democratic Party demanded the debates should take place "after the enactment of the legislation."
The timing of the abdication will be decided under a bylaw within three years after the law is promulgated, according to the abdication bill.
The government started preparations for a legal measure to enable the aging emperor to retire and pass the throne to Crown Prince Naruhito after he signaled his desire in a rare video message in August last year.
Although lawmakers agreed to realize the emperor's desire through the envisioned legislation, they have remained divided over how and by when the government should come up with a solution to secure stable succession amid a decline in the number of imperial family members.
The issue has drawn further attention after it was reported the emperor's eldest granddaughter, Princess Mako, is expected to get engaged, a move that will lead to a drop in the number of imperial family members, excluding the emperor, to 17 in the near future.
The Democratic Party insisted on establishing female branches of the imperial family so women could remain in the family after marriage.
But the LDP appears to be reluctant to accept such a step for fear of objections from its conservative supporters. They believe it could lead to a female member becoming a reining empress or heirs of female lineage becoming an emperor despite the long tradition under which succession by heirs who have emperors on their father's side has continued without exception.