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Japan’s Emperor Akihito Hints At Wish To Abdicate

Japan’s Emperor Akihito has said he fears age and deteriorating health mean he is finding it difficult to continue in his role.

The revered 82-year-old emperor’s comments came in his second-ever televised address to the public.

While he did not use the word “abdicate”, he strongly indicated that he wishes to hand over his duties.

PM Shinzo Abe said the government would take the remarks “seriously” and discuss what can be done.

In 10-minute pre-recorded message, Emperor Akihito said he hoped the duties of the emperor as a symbol of the state could continue steadily without any breaks.

“I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now,” he said.

Akihito, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, has been on the throne in Japan since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989.

His eldest son, 56-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito is first in line to the Chrysanthemum throne, followed by his younger brother Prince Akishino. Women are not allowed to inherit the throne and so Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, cannot succeed her father.

Emperor Akihito said one possibility when an emperor could not fulfil his duties because of age or illness was that a regency could be established.

But he suggested this was not the ideal outcome, saying: “I think it is not possible to continue reducing perpetually the emperor’s acts in matters of state and his duties as the symbol of the state.”

Why can’t the emperor abdicate?

Abdication is not mentioned under existing laws, so they would need to be changed for the emperor to be able to stand down. The changes will also have to be approved by parliament.

The emperor is constitutionally not allowed to make any political statements, and the desire to abdicate could be seen as being political.
What has the reaction been?

The public seems to support the emperor’s desire to abdicate, with the younger generation in particular saying he should be allowed to relax in his old age.

A recent survey by the Kyodo news agency found more than 85% saying abdication should be legalised.

But the move is opposed by some more conservative sections of society.
Is this the first time a revision of the law has been discussed?

A debate about whether or not a woman would be able to ascend the throne was discussed in 2006 when the emperor had no grandsons, but was postponed after a boy was born to a family.

Prince Akishino also called for a debate on whether a retirement age should be set for the Emperor in 2011, but it did not result in a law change.

Source: BBC

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