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OPINION POLLS

76% say “permanent system” for abdication should be created, Nikkei spot poll

In a Nikkei [spot] public opinion poll, 76% of those approving of abdication by Emperor Akihito indicated they want a permanent system for abdication to be established. There is a movement within the government to respond to Emperor Akihito’s implied desire to abdicate by creating a special law that would apply only to the current emperor, but in the poll only 18% said they want that. More than half of respondents said that the issues of female emperors/female-line emperors and the creation of female branches of the imperial family should be considered alongside the matter of abdication. Thus there is a chance that the deliberations will develop into a discussion of the entire Imperial Household system.

 

In response to the public’s desire that the Emperor’s wishes be addressed, the government plans to set up as soon as September an expert panel that will initiate full-fledged debate on abdication. Some in the ruling parties say that “the deliberations will take at least one year.”

 

To create a permanent system for abdication requires revisions to the Imperial House Law, and measures must be put in place to prevent the emperor from arbitrarily abdicating and to protect the emperor from being forced to abdicate against his will. This would require more discussion than enacting a special law that would impact only the current emperor.

 

Of those who approve of abdication by the emperor, less than 20% think it should be an ad hoc system that would impact only Emperor Akihito. Under the Constitution of Japan, the emperor is forbidden to make political statements or take political actions, and the position of the emperor is to be based on the collective will of the people. The government plans to discuss the system based on the will of the people. It looks like the desire of the people for a permanent system to be created will impact the government’s deliberations.

 

All eyes are on whether the abdication deliberations will broaden to include a revision of the Imperial Household framework overall. When asked whether female emperors/female-line emperors and the creation of female branches of the imperial family should be considered along with the matter of abdication, some 58% of poll respondents said “both issues should be considered [alongside abdication].”Both of these questions have been deliberated in the past but then shelved [when no resolution was found]. According to government sources, there are concerns that “no conclusion will be made if the two issues are considered alongside abdication.”

 

When those opposed to abdication were asked why, many responded that “the emperor is a symbol of the state precisely because he holds the position of emperor [regardless of his ability to perform public duties].” This view of the emperor as a symbol of the state differs from that expressed by Emperor Akihito [who said performance of duties is required to be considered emperor as symbol of the state]. If deliberations are conducted in light of such views, it would unavoidably lead to a discussion involving the Constitution and the question of what “symbol of the state” means. In such a case, it could affect the debate of constitutional amendment, which looks likely to get into full swing during the autumn extraordinary session.

 

Q: Do you think that abdication by the emperor should be permitted?

 

Yes

89%

No

4%

 

Q: (To those who think that abdication by the emperor should be permitted) How should the government handle this?

 

A system that permits abdication for all future emperors should be established

76%

A system that permits abdication only for Emperor Akihito should be established

18%

 

Q: Do you think the Emperor’s “expression of his wishes” presents a problem in terms of the Constitution?

 

No

83%

Yes

9%

 

Q: Should the issues of female emperors/female-line emperors and the creation of female branches of the imperial family be considered together with the matter of abdication?

 

Both issues should be discussed together with the matter of abdication

58%

Female emperors/female-line emperors should be discussed

16%

Creation of female branches of the imperial family should be discussed

6%

Neither of the two issues should be discussed

11%

 

[Polling methodology: The telephone poll was conducted on Aug. 9–11 by Nikkei Research Inc. of men and women, aged 18 and over, nationwide on a random digit dialing (RDD) basis. A total of 1,016 valid responses were received for a response rate of 45.2%.]

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