The speakers and vice speakers of both houses of the Diet have presented to ruling and opposition parties the outline of a bill worked out by the executive branch of the government that would allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate.
The move is an indication that once-meandering efforts to draw up the "bill on exceptional measures to the Imperial House Law on the Emperor's abdication, etc.," are back on track.
A clause stating that the special law "is an integral part of the Imperial House Law" is set to be incorporated in the supplementary provision of the main law. The outline also mentions Emperor Akihito's "thoughts" as a factor paving the way for him to step down from the throne.
The gist largely reflects the Diet's views coordinated by the speakers and vice speakers of the House of Representatives as well as the president and vice president of the House of Councillors this past March. It also mirrors the outcome of discussions between ruling and opposition parties and a final report that the government's panel of experts on the issue recently submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This is only natural considering the process leading up to the compilation of the outline. However, at one stage of the process, the executive branch dealt with the matter as if it were making light of the legislative branch.
The title of the bill in a plan that the executive branch initially proposed after the Diet announced its view on the issue contained the phrase, "His Majesty the Emperor's abdication." In comparison, the title of the bill proposed according to the legislative branch's views used the phrase, "the Emperor's abdication." The executive branch added "His Majesty" to the title in order to emphasize that the proposed legislation would apply specifically to Emperor Akihito.
The Diet's views clearly mention the "thoughts" of Emperor Akihito, who said he felt it difficult to fulfill his official duties because of his advanced age. However, the executive branch's initial plan replaced "thoughts" with "anxiety."
The wording of the Diet's views reflect the largest opposition Democratic Party's opinion that the planned abdication of Emperor Akihito should be characterized as a precedent for future cases and that his intentions be respected in allowing him to step down.
Opposition to the executive branch's initial plan was voiced by not only the Democratic Party but also ruling coalition partner Komeito, which asked that the plan be based on the legislative branch's views. An executive branch attitude making light of the legislative branch's agreement would disregard efforts made by ruling and opposition parties to form consensus on the issue.
Prime Minister Abe had stated that he "takes the Diet's view seriously." So why did he act as if to suppress its views? Abe modified his position after being criticized over his attitude.
Prime Minister Abe apparently desires to treat Emperor Akihito's abdication as an exception, but has never publicly mentioned that because of his position. His response could be interpreted as an attempt to reflect his views in the bill that his Cabinet will submit to the Diet as well as a bid to show consideration to conservatives who are opposed to allowing the Emperor to step down.
Ruling and opposition parties are holding consultations over a supplementary resolution in the Diet urging the executive branch to take effective measures to cope with a decrease in the number of Imperial Family members. It is an issue that needs to be swiftly addressed. Ruling and opposition parties should step up their studies of the possibility of allowing female members of the Imperial Family to have their own family branches within a certain timeframe.