Japan launches panel on emperor’s abdication

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 1:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 1:33pm

The Japanese government set up a panel on Friday to discuss the potential abdication of Emperor Akihito following indications from him that he wishes to vacate the throne.

The panel, which aims to start discussions in mid-October, will comprise six members including Takashi Imai, former chairman of Japan’s major steelmaker and honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation, as well as Takashi Mikuriya, a political scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, the government said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the panel will be “a venue where discussions on matters such as alleviating the emperor’s public duties will be held without any prejudice.”

Based on the emperor’s constitutional position which derives from the will of the people, Suga added the government will “let the panel compile a proposal that reflects a wide range of opinions of the public.”

The government decided to establish the panel before beginning legal procedures in response to the 82-year-old emperor’s rare video message to the public on August 8 in which he voiced concern that he could one day become unable to fulfil his role as the symbol of the state because of his advanced age.

Currently, only posthumous succession is effectively allowed as the Imperial House Law, enacted in 1947, lacks a provision regarding abdication.

Amendments or creation of a special law would thus be necessary to enable the emperor to step down.

The government is considering special legislation effective only for Emperor Akihito, with an eye to submitting relevant bills to the ordinary Diet session next year, government sources said earlier.

Calls for introducing special legislation for a certain period of time have grown within the government, also on the back of public opinion polls largely positive about the envisioned abdication.

According to government sources, Imai, 86, chairman of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, will chair the panel whose first session will be attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The four other members of the panel are: Junko Obata, an administrative law scholar and professor at the law school of Sophia University; Atsushi Seike, president of Keio University and an economist versed in employment issues; Midori Miyazaki, professor at Chiba University of Commerce and a former TV newscaster; and Masayuki Yamauchi, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and Islamic studies researcher.

The prime minister told reporters earlier this month that he hopes to facilitate discussions of a potential abdication by gathering opinions from various people.