Draw a conclusion on abdication issue that people would accept: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japanese Emperor Akihito (left) and Empress Michiko watch a martial art competition celebrating the 130 years of anniversary of the foundation of the Imperial Guard in Tokyo, Japan on Jan 19, 2017.
Japanese Emperor Akihito (left) and Empress Michiko watch a martial art competition celebrating the 130 years of anniversary of the foundation of the Imperial Guard in Tokyo, Japan on Jan 19, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Jan 24, the paper states that the abdication panel's points of discussion, should serve as a basis for coming to a conclusion that the public will accept.

What is most important regarding the issue of the Emperor's abdication is to draw a conclusion that many people can accept. One has to make the possible options presented by a government panel on the matter serve as a basis for promoting in-depth discussions.

The council of experts, which is tasked with addressing the reduction of the burden and other issues related to acts in public matters by the Emperor, has publicised its compilation of the points of discussion. A summary of the panel's discussions contained nearly all the opinions advanced at a series of meetings, the last of which was the eighth of its kind.

How should the Emperor's burden be reduced? The summary presented three options regarding this main point of discussion - limiting abdication to the current Emperor; creating an abdication system that would cover all successive emperors; and expanding the scope of the requirements for setting up a regency.

The summary stated that the advantage of limiting abdication to a single emperor's reign is that doing so would make it possible to respond to the thinking of emperors and public opinion, which could change as the times progress. It also pointed out some problems with that idea, such as that a similar issue due to the aging of an emperor could arise in the future, too.

The summary included the opinion that a permanent abdication system that would entail amendments to the Imperial House Law is consistent with the purport of the Constitution, which states, "The Imperial Throne shall be ... succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial House Law." Meanwhile, it was also noticeable that it cited various problems, including difficulties in deciding the requirements for abdication.

In reference to a regency, the summary said it would have the advantage of being able to avert abdication under duress and abdication for arbitrary reasons. At the same time, however, it expressed concern that it could lead to a "duality of authority."

The summary also contained a sceptical view about abdication itself.

Comparing all the options, fewer problems exist regarding limiting abdication to a single emperor's reign. It seems that the summary indicated the course of action favoured by the panel, which would approve of abdication limited to the current Emperor.

Discussions on legislative measures to be taken have started in the Diet. From now on, the opinions of each political party will be collated by the heads of both chambers - the speaker and vice speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as the president and vice president of the House of Councillors - and then submitted to the government. After considering the final proposal to be advanced by the panel, the government is scheduled to submit pertinent bills to the Diet around in May.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito appears to support the government's intention to create an exceptional-case law on abdication limited to a single emperor's reign. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and others have called for revising the Imperial House Law to institutionalise abdication. A compromise proposal is also being floated that would establish an exceptional-case law after incorporating a supplementary provision into the Imperial House Law.

The Constitution states that the position of emperor is derived "from the will of the people." It is desirable that the abdication issue should be settled based on a consensus among all political parties. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had every reason to emphasise at a plenary session of the lower house that "(The issue) must not be turned into a political squabble."

Media reports have said that the government is considering a new emperor's enthronement and an era-name change on the first day of 2019. However, Yasuhiko Nishimura, vice grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, expressed his view about that timetable, describing it as "difficult." This is because many important events are held at the Imperial Palace on New Year's Day.

It will be more and more important to facilitate reciprocal communication between the Prime Minister's Office and the Imperial Household Agency.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.