Abdication bill gets Japan Cabinet approval
By News Desk
19 May 2017

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The Japanese Cabinet on Friday morning approved a bill to establish a special measures law to realise the abdication of the Emperor, paving the way for the first abdication of an emperor in about 200 years, since Emperor Kokaku stepped down in 1817.  

The bill describes the people’s sympathy toward the feelings of the Emperor, who is advanced in age. It also incorporates specific details of the abdication system, such as stating that the title for the Emperor after abdication will be “joko.”

 The government submitted the bill to the Diet later on the day, and it is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session.
 The bill is named a “bill on a special case for the Imperial House Law regarding the Emperor’s abdication and other related matters.” It states that the Emperor will abdicate on the date of the special measures law’s enforcement, which falls within three years after the legislation’s promulgation, and that the koshi (the Imperial heir, or the crown prince) will immediately ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne. It also says the date of the legislation’s enforcement will be set by a government ordinance.

 Regarding the date of the Emperor’s abdication, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government plans to make the necessary coordination. 

 “By looking at the overall situation, we will decide on a course of action” on the issue, he said at a press conference on Friday morning.
 The government is considering a plan to hold ceremonies for the Emperor’s abdication and a new emperor’s enthronement in December 2018 and change the era name on New Year’s Day in 2019. Alternatively, a plan to change the era name on April 1, 2019, the beginning of the new fiscal year, is also under consideration.

 Article 1 of the bill explains the purpose of realizing the Emperor’s abdication. Regarding the Emperor’s concerns over continuing to perform his official duties, it states “the people deeply adore the Emperor, understand his feelings and sympathize with them.”

 The bill does not refer to the Emperor’s message released in August last year, in which he implied his intention to abdicate, in consideration of Article 4 of the Constitution that prohibits the Emperor from having any powers related to government.

 The specific details are defined in Article 2 of the bill and beyond. For example, the bill states the title for the Empress after the Emperor’s abdication is “jokogo.” The honorific form of address for both “joko” and “jokogo” will be “heika” (Your Majesty).

 The bill adds that the post of “joko grand chamberlain” will be newly established in the Imperial Household Agency to support the Emperor’s activities after his abdication.

 It also incorporates a provision to add, “The special measures law is in sync with [the Imperial House Law]” to supplementary provisions of the Imperial House Law. This is because the Constitution states the Imperial throne shall be succeeded in accordance with the Imperial House Law.

 It will be the first time in 68 years since 1949 for the Imperial House Law to be revised.
 The bill will be deliberated at the House of Representatives Rules and Administration Committee and the House of Councillors special committee. It appears certain the bill will pass during the current Diet session given that most political parties, including the ruling parties and the major opposition Democratic Party, intend to approve it.

 At the time of a vote on the bill, the parties plan to adopt an additional resolution to the bill that will urge the government to discuss measures to ensure stable Imperial succession. The DP is calling for including in the additional resolution that discussions will be held on the creation of female Imperial branches, thus allowing princesses to remain in the Imperial family even after their marriage. 

 The Liberal Democratic Party, however, is cautious toward this idea and is holding talks with the main opposition party.

 The planned engagement of Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, with a commoner will result in fewer Imperial family members. This may affect debates on the additional resolution.   

Points of abdication bill

■ The Emperor will abdicate on the date of the special measures law’s enforcement and the koshi (the crown prince) will immediately ascend the throne.
■ The date of the legislation’s enforcement, which is when the Emperor abdicates, will be within three years of its promulgation and will be set by a government ordinance.
■ The retired Emperor will be referred to by the title “joko” while his wife will be referred to as “jokogo.” The honorific form of address will be “heika” (Your Majesty).
■ After the Emperor’s abdication, the Imperial budget allocated to Prince Akishino, who will become first in line to the throne, will be tripled.
■ A provision stating, “The special measures law is in sync with this law,” will be added to supplementary provisions of the Imperial House Law.
■ The Emperor’s Birthday national holiday will be changed from Dec. 23 to Feb. 23.

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