The Japanese government yesterday approved a one-off bill allowing Emperor Akihito to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne, in the first such abdication in two centuries.
The bill will now be sent to parliament for debate and likely receive swift final approval, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet signed off on the legislation.
Abdication must take place within three years of the bill becoming law.
Earlier this year reports suggested that 83-year-old Akihito could step down at the end of December next year and be replaced by Crown Prince Naruhito on Jan. 1, 2019.
Reports of his desire to retire surprised Japan when they emerged in July last year.
In August, he publicly cited age and declining health, which was interpreted as his wish to hand the crown to his eldest son.
However, current Japanese law has no provision for abdication, thus requiring politicians to craft legislation to make it possible.
The status of the emperor is highly sensitive in Japan given its 20th-century history of war waged in the name of Akihito’s father, Hirohito, who died in 1989.
Revered as a demigod before and during the conflict, Hirohito was reduced to a mere figurehead as part of postwar reforms.
Akihito has won plaudits for seizing upon the constitutionally prescribed role of national symbol and there is wide sympathy for his wish to retire.
While a majority of the Japanese public supports a permanent law on abdication, they have also expressed support for the current bill for the sake of realizing Akihito’s smooth transition from the throne.
While abdications are far from unknown in Japanese history, the last one was in 1817.
The leading opposition Democratic Party has said the law should be permanently changed to ensure stable future successions, but is reportedly on side with the current one-off bill after talks with the ruling bloc.
Some academics and politicians have argued that changing the law to allow any emperor to abdicate would risk Japan’s monarchs becoming subject to political manipulation.
The issue has also highlighted concerns over a potential succession crisis in one of the world’s oldest monarchies.
A government panel last month issued a warning over the dwindling number of male heirs.
Only men are allowed to become emperor under current law, though Japan has had empresses in past centuries.
Female members of the imperial family must give up their royal status when marrying a commoner, underscored by news this week that one of Akihito’s granddaughters plans to marry her college sweetheart.
When Naruhito, who has a daughter but no sons, ascends the throne, his younger brother, Akishino, will be next in line, followed by Hisahito, Akishino’s 10-year-old son.
But after that there are no more eligible males, meaning the centuries-old succession would be broken if Hisahito fails to have a son in the future.
Many Japanese believe the sustainability of the throne can be solved by allowing for female succession, but traditionalists vehemently oppose the idea.
Underscoring the urgency of the situation, a government panel tasked with making recommendations on the abdication issue late last month said in its final report that addressing the succession crisis cannot wait.
“The sustainability of the imperial system is in real danger,” panel head Takashi Mikuriya told the Mainichi Shimbun in an interview.
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable