The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is significant that a proposal was finalized after political parties and parliamentary groups overcame their differences in opinion.
On the issue of the Emperor’s abdication, the chiefs and deputy chiefs of both chambers of the Diet coordinated the opinions and compiled a proposal put forward from the Diet. It calls for establishing a special law to allow the current Emperor to step down. House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima presented the proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Article 1 of the Constitution stipulates that the Emperor’s position is derived from “the will of the people.” The views of the Diet, an institution that represents the people, should be fully respected.
Abe said, “I accept [the Diet proposal] solemnly and will work on formulating legislation immediately.” The government intends to submit legislation to create the special law to the Diet after the upcoming lengthy holidays. It can be said that a certain course has been set for the abdication issue.
The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito consistently advocated the creation of a one-off special law to apply only to the current Emperor. They favor such a special law because it would be difficult to set requirements for abdication in a system that applies to future emperors.
The Democratic Party initially called for establishing a permanent abdication system by revising the Imperial House Law to incorporate requirements for abdication, including the will of the Emperor.
The Diet proposal seeks a new supplementary clause in the Imperial House Law stipulating that the special law is integral to the Imperial House Law. It has also called for mentioning in the legislation that the Emperor’s message about his intention to abdicate has won broad public understanding.
Key issues still unaddressed
The chiefs and deputy chiefs of the Diet chambers largely deserve credit for turning the LDP’s compromise plan into the Diet’s proposal.
Article 2 of the Constitution says, “The Imperial Throne shall be ... succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial House Law.” The decision to regard the special law as integral to the Imperial House Law indicates that consideration of the Constitution has been given. The DP has also compromised, saying a certain degree of its view has been incorporated.
Arbitrary or forced abdication can be prevented if a system is created in which abdication is examined case by case and based on the public’s response. The Diet proposal has shown this.
This is a crucial matter to be kept in mind when establishing the special law.
It cannot be denied that the Diet put off considering key points of the abdication issue related to the nature of the Imperial system so that the Emperor, who is of advanced age, could abdicate swiftly.
Is there a possibility that the principle of the lifetime throne system will be gradually undermined? How would a situation in which there is no crown prince after the Emperor’s abdication be handled? Issues also remain concerning the title and treatment of the Emperor after he abdicates.
The government is urged to make every effort to devise the legislation.
The Diet has also called on the government to consider creating female Imperial branches and other matters to ensure stable succession to the Imperial throne.
Six of seven unmarried female Imperial family members have come of age. They will leave the Imperial family after marriage. The creation of female Imperial branches also has significance in terms of preparation for a possible female succession to the throne. This is an important issue to be addressed in the future.