Ja­pan passes bill to al­low em­peror to ab­di­cate

New Straits Times - - World -

TOKYO: The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day ap­proved a one­off bill al­low­ing age­ing Em­peror Ak­i­hito to step down from the Chrysan­the­mum Throne, in the first such ab­di­ca­tion in two cen­turies.

The bill would now be sent to Par­lia­ment for de­bate and likely re­ceive swift fi­nal ap­proval, chief cab­i­net sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said after Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s cab­i­net signed off on the leg­is­la­tion.

Ab­di­ca­tion must take place within three years of the bill be­com­ing law.

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

Re­ports of his de­sire to re­tire sur­prised Ja­pan when they emerged last July.

In Au­gust he pub­licly cited age and de­clin­ing health, which was in­ter­preted as his wish to hand the crown to his el­dest son.

But cur­rent Ja­panese law has no pro­vi­sion for ab­di­ca­tion, thus re­quir­ing politi­cians to craft leg­is­la­tion to make it pos­si­ble.

The sta­tus of the em­peror is highly sen­si­tive in Ja­pan, given its 20th cen­tury his­tory of war waged in the name of Ak­i­hito’s fa­ther Hiro­hito, who died in 1989.

Rev­ered as a demigod be­fore and dur­ing the con­flict, Hiro­hito was re­duced to a mere fig­ure­head as part of post­war re­forms.

Ak­i­hito has won plau­dits for seiz­ing upon the con­sti­tu­tion­ally-pre­scribed role of na­tional sym­bol and there is wide sym­pa­thy for his wish to re­tire.

While a ma­jor­ity of the Ja­panese pub­lic sup­ports a per­ma­nent law on ab­di­ca­tion, they have also ex­pressed sup­port for the cur­rent bill for the sake of re­al­is­ing Ak­i­hito’s smooth tran­si­tion from the throne.

While ab­di­ca­tions are far from un­known in Ja­panese his­tory, the last one was in 1817. AFP

REUTERS PIC

Ja­panese Em­peror Ak­i­hito and Em­press Michiko at the Im­pe­rial Palace in Tokyo in 2015.

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