Gov't panel finalizes proposals on emperor's abdication

KYODO NEWS KYODO NEWS - Apr 21, 2017 - 18:34 | All

A government advisory panel finalized Friday its proposals on Emperor Akihito's abdication including one-off legislation enabling the 83-year-old to become the first living emperor to relinquish the throne in around 200 years.

The proposals finalized during the panel's 14th meeting held at the prime minister's office also include what status and treatment the emperor should be given after his retirement, and were submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Reflecting the proposal and an agreement reached last month by Diet members, the government will craft a bill applying only to the present emperor and submit it to the parliament possibly as early as May 19 so it can be passed during the current Diet session through June 18.

The government plans to allow the emperor to abdicate on the day the law enters into force, within three years after it is promulgated, the sources said. Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne.

The government has already started negotiations behind the scenes with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior collation partner Komeito as well as the main opposition Democratic Party, showing them the outline of the bill, mirroring the government's aim to have the bill passed in a smooth manner by forming a prior consensus.

Debate under the government-commissioned panel began last October, two months after the emperor, citing his age, signaled his wish to relinquish and hand over the throne to the crown prince.

The panel suggested using the title of "joko" for Emperor Akihito after his abdication. "Joko" is an abbreviation of "daijo tenno," a title that was given in the past to an abdicated emperor.

For the 82-year-old empress, the panel suggested creating a new title, "jokogo," which means "wife of joko."

The panel also recommended the emperor give up all of his duties conducted as a symbol of the state but suggested the continued use of "heika," which means "Your Majesty" as their honorific title. It also proposed the establishment of a new office to support the couple.

With regard to concerns over a possible dual power structure between a retired emperor and reigning emperor, the panel judged it is appropriate for the present emperor to hand over all of his duties to his son.

Regarding the title of Prince Akishino, the second son of the imperial couple, the council did not see the need for a new one, as it has been used and widely accepted for nearly 30 years.

However, it indicated some options, such as "koshi denka," "Akishinonomiya Koshi Denka" or "Koshi Akishinonomiya Denka." "Koshi" means the one who is first in line to the throne and "denka" stands for "highness." The 51-year-old will become the first in line to the throne after the crown prince ascends to the throne.

In light of his new role, the report suggested a threefold increase in the annual budget allocation for the private expenses of Prince Akishino. Currently, 30.5 million yen ($279,000) is allocated to him based on the Imperial Economy Law.

Against the backdrop of a decline in the number of imperial family members, the report highlighted the need to take measures to reverse the trend but did not suggest any concrete steps.

How to legalize the emperor's abdication has been debated by the six-member panel chaired by Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation, as only posthumous succession is allowed currently, as the Imperial House Law lacks a provision regarding abdication and only allows succession following the death of an emperor.

While the timing of the abdication has not been formally decided, the government is considering December 2018, apparently having in mind the emperor's 85th birthday on Dec. 23 that year, government sources have said.

==Kyodo

Apr 21, 2017 | KYODO NEWS