Post by Count Gudenus
Japan Emperor Abdication voted
The Japan Times of today
Lower House panel gives nod to one-off abdication bill
BY REIJI YOSHIDA
JUN 1, 2017
The Lower House Steering Committee on Thursday approved a one-time bill to permit the abdication of Emperor Akihito due to advanced age.
With all major parties supporting the concept of the legislation, the bill is likely to sail through the Lower House on Friday and immediately proceed to the Upper House, where it is expected to become law next week.
The 1947 Imperial House Law allows a successor to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne only after an emperor dies. If Emperor Akihito abdicates, he will become the first in about 200 years to step down.
The bill was drawn up and submitted by the government after all the major parties agreed that the Emperor, 83, should be allowed to abdicate.
Opposition lawmakers had argued that the option of abdication should be provided on a permanent basis, as was hinted by the Emperor himself in an unprecedented TV message aired in August. But the ruling camp wanted a special one-off law just for Emperor Akihito.
In a verbal gesture, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told Thursday’s session that the one-time law “can set a precedent” for Imperial succession. Still, he argued that this is preferable to permanent reform because it allows lawmakers to make future decisions based on the social situation and public opinion of the times.
At the same session, the committee also adopted a resolution on female branches that was attached to the bill. The resolution urges the government to consider introducing reforms to allow women in the Imperial family to establish new branches within the Imperial system.
But the resolution is nonbinding and only calls on the government to “quickly” start studying such a reform and sets no deadline.
Under the Imperial House Law, females are obliged to give up their Imperial status when they marry a commoner, and only male members are allowed to establish their own branches within the Imperial system.
The Imperial House Law says the Imperial throne shall be succeeded only “by a male offspring in the male line belonging to the Imperial lineage.”
The opposition has called for revising the law to let a female establish her own branch after marrying a commoner, but many conservative politicians — including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — are opposed to the idea because any revision could eventually allow Imperial offspring from a female line to rise to the Imperial throne, breaking Japan’s tradition of male succession, which has been in place for hundreds of years.
“The prime minister strongly prefers male-line succession,” a high-ranking government official recently said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official suggested that the government could even shelve the proposed reform until they determine whether the future wife of Prince Hisahito, the son of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, can produce “several boys,” which would temporarily stabilize the succession system.
Concern has recently grown that the Imperial family could run out of successors because it only has one young boy, Prince Hisahito, who is 10 years old. The other seven unmarried members are all women, and Princess Mako, one of Prince Hisahito’s elder sisters, is expected to be engaged to a commoner this summer.
Her marriage will thus reduce the Imperial family to 18.
Senior officials have suggested that the government let female family members continue performing their public duties even after marrying a commoner. This would help reduce the burden placed on each member of the shrinking Imperial family, though it won’t solve the fundamental threat to the succession system.
The Imperial family has maintained its traditional male-blood lineage succession system for hundreds of years thanks to the concubine system, which was effectively abolished by Emperor Hirohito, who is posthumously known as Emperor Showa.
Many conservative intellectuals and politicians have argued that the male succession system be maintained by reviving the Imperial status of branch families who were deprived of their privileges by postwar reforms made after Japan lost World War II.
But this means that a woman in the current Imperial family would be obliged to marry a male descendant of a former branch family, regardless of their intention. This would apparently break the Constitution, which stipulates that “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.”