Uncertainty in Japan as emperor hints at abdication
Iran Press TV
Mon Aug 8, 2016 9:56AM
Japan's ailing emperor has hinted at possible abdication in a rare radio address to the nation, saying his age may hinder him from carrying out his duties.
The 82-year-old Emperor Akihito has had heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer, with public broadcaster NHK reporting last month that he wanted to step down.
In his address on Monday, the emperor did not specifically say he wanted to abdicate but his speech was seen as an indication that he wanted to hand over his duties.
"When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, 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.
A possible abdication would be unprecedented in modern Japan because the current law insists emperors must serve until they die.
For an abdication, existing laws would need to be changed - a requirement Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative party opposes.
Abe said he took the emperor's remarks "seriously," adding it was necessary to consider what steps could be taken.
Opinion polls show that the vast majority of ordinary Japanese people sympathize with the emperor's desire to retire.
However, conservative traditionalists in the Abe administration are worried that if the law were to be changed, liberal politicians in parliament would take the opportunity to push for women to be allowed to become emperor.
Japan's current law only allows males to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Upon Akihito's demise, the throne would pass to 56-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito whose only child is a daughter.
A female emperor is opposed by the traditionalists eager to preserve a male line. They believe the male line, which goes back more than 2,000 years, is a source of the nation's unity.
Conservatives also worry that devoting political energy to discussing abdication could sidetrack Abe's push to revise the US-drafted pacifist constitution. They see the charter as a symbol of Japan's humiliating defeat in World War Two.
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