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Discussing abdication laws may unsettle Abe administration's political calendar

The political calendar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration may be disrupted if officials tackle legislative measures to provide a way for Emperor Akihiko to abdicate, as the issue remains a weighty one.

Following a public message from the Emperor on Aug. 8 hinting at a desire to abdicate, Abe is set to carefully consider what arrangements to go ahead with.

The prime minister has roughly two years left until his term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ends in September 2018. The term of House of Representatives members, meanwhile, lasts until December 2018, so Abe will run his administration while probing the option of dissolving the chamber and calling a general election. The administration envisages proceeding with discussion on revisions to the Constitution within a two-year time frame. However, if discussion on the Emperor's abdication moves forward, then it will drain a great deal of the administration's energy as a high priority political issue, which could shackle the administration.

Since the House of Representatives election in July, Abe has fastened his gaze on constitutional reform. Forces in favor of changing the Constitution, including the LDP, its junior coalition partner Komeito, and the Initiatives from Osaka party, now hold a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Diet -- the threshold needed to initiate constitutional reform. The government hopes to pull the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, into discussion on revising the Constitution and narrow down the clauses to be revised in commissions in both chambers of the Diet.

The prime minister is prioritizing winning consensus in the Diet, and he is set to proceed carefully with discussion. If the imperial system as defined in the Constitution were to come up as a topic of discussion in the commissions on constitutional revision, then the Abe administration's debate on the themes of constitutional reform it has in sight would not proceed as it hoped, altering the pace envisioned by the administration.

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