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Rift emerges between Kantei and Imperial Household Agency over Emperor’s abdication

  • March 28, 2017
  • , Sankei , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

There is a growing rift between the Prime Minister’s Office (Kantei) and the Imperial Household Agency over the issue of the Emperor’s abdication. In response to the Emperor’s announcement last August of his desire to abdicate, the Kantei has taken measures to improve its communication with the agency, but the discord has persisted. As the government will start preparing after the Golden Week holidays in early May to submit a one-time special law to allow the Emperor to abdicate in 2018 and other related legislation to the Diet, closer communication between them will be needed.

 

When watching NHK at his private residence in Tomigaya at 7:00 p.m. on March 25, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shocked to hear the report that “after the abdication, the Emperor and the Crown Prince will exchange residences.”

 

Even the government expert panel on abdication had not taken up this matter for discussion, so it came as a complete surprise to Abe. The prime minister immediately spoke to the officials in charge of the matter and found out that it had not been discussed within the Kantei. “The Imperial Household Agency, in an attempt to create a fait accompli, probably leaked the information to NHK,” disclosed a source connected to the Kantei.

 

At the press conference held on March 27, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga openly expressed his displeasure by saying: “I have not been informed of the matter. I have no idea on what grounds such news was reported. It is inappropriate and difficult to believe such news was reported.”

 

In order to avoid infringing on Article 4 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “the Emperor shall not have powers related to government,” the Kantei has made every effort to realize the abdication as “the consensus of the people.” As part of this effort, the Kantei first had the speakers and vice speakers of both chambers of the Diet develop a consensus [among the ruling and opposition parties]. As a result, the government was finally able to put together on March 17 a view to form the basis of the special law on abdication. The expert panel has also just started its deliberations on drafting legislation.

 

If similar incidents happen in the future, the passage of the special law could be at risk. The Kantei intends to conduct a fact-finding investigation regarding the incident with the agency and study preventive measures.

 

After the rift emerged, the Kantei replaced last September the agency’s deputy director with Yasuhiko Nishimura, a former deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management who hails from the National Police Agency, and had him attend vice ministers’ meetings to no avail. When the Sankei Shimbun reported this January that the name of the new era will start being used on Jan.1, 2019, the Imperial Household Agency expressed the conflicting view that would be difficult to schedule the abdication-related events on the first day of the year.

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