The Japanese government expects the abdication of Emperor Akihito to take place in 2018, officials said on Tuesday. This is the first time that a specific date has been mentioned since the monarch, 82, publicly expressed his desire to step down in August, for which there is no provision in the Japanese Constitution, EFE news reported. The Emperor announced in a televised speech his desire to abdicate in favour of his son Naruhito, due to his advanced age and failing health, and since then the government has proposed passing special legislation in order to comply with the emperor’s wishes.
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Once parliamentary procedures are completed, the administration expects the abdication to take place in 2018 – a year that may have been suggested as suitable by the head of state himself to Imperial Household agency officials.
The announcement comes a day after an expert panel set up by the government began discussing proposals to manage the abdication process.
The government wants the panel to submit a range of proposals at its earliest convenience, enabling it to enact special legislation without having to amend the Constitution – a process too long and complicated.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration plans to table the legislation before parliament in early 2017 and pave the way for the abdication, a move that surveys indicate is supported by Japanese citizens.
Although the 1947 law only allows posthumous abdication, nearly half of the country’s 125 emperors who have occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne in the past have stepped down while alive.
Emperor Akihito’s health has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, after he underwent heart bypass surgery in 2012.