Japan's Cabinet OKs bill to let Emperor Akihito abdicate
00:35, May 20, 2017
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Emperor Akihito is 83, and has expressed his desire to retire since July previous year.
Akihito will become the first emperor to abdicate since Emperor Kokaku did so 200 years ago. Next in line for succession is Crown Prince Naruhito, who is 57.
An abdication is not expected until at least the end of 2018, according to reports.
"The government hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation", Reuters quoted Suga as saying. The bill in its current form does no such thing, but the opposition Democratic Party has been advocating for debate on allowing princesses to remain in the royal family after they marry commoners. Currently, only posthumous succession is allowed under the Imperial House Law. The legislation endorsed Friday, May 19, 2017 would allow Crown Prince Naruhito to succeed his father as emperor.
The nation's era name (gengo), informed sources said, which lasts for as long as the emperor is on the throne, will possibly change at the beginning of 2019.
The government agreed to comply with the emperor's desire to abdicate - a move that enjoys strong public support - but has stressed that the bill will apply only to Akihito, and not future emperors.
He has been treated for prostate cancer and also had heart surgery.
The discussion about the role of royal women arose again this week after it was announced that Princess Mako, Akihito's eldest grandchild, was to be engaged to a commoner.
Imperial law requires an Emperor to serve for life, but Akihito's announcement put plans into motion for the Japanese parliament to allow the Emperor to step aside should he choose to.
The bill has been specifically drafted to ensure it is used only for the current emperor and to disallow future emperors from following it.
Imperial law is strict: Succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne must be posthumous and only males are eligible, as Kyodo News reports.
It also makes no reference to the controversial issue of changing the system to allow women to inherit the throne, or to stay in the imperial family upon marriage, Japanese media said, although political parties are discussing a separate resolution on the topic. Princess Mako's brother, 10-year-old Hisahito, is the fourth heir to the throne and the only boy in his generation.
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