World Bulletin / News Desk
The Japanese government on Friday approved a one-off bill allowing ageing Emperor Akihito to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne, in the first such abdication in two centuries.
The bill will now be sent to parliament for debate and likely receive swift final approval, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet signed off on the legislation.
Abdication must take place within three years of the bill becoming law.
Earlier this year reports suggested that 83-year-old Akihito could step down at the end of December 2018 and be replaced by Crown Prince Naruhito on January 1, 2019.
Reports of his desire to retire surprised Japan when they emerged last July.
In August he publicly cited age and declining health, which was interpreted as his wish to hand the crown to his eldest son.
But current Japanese law has no provision for abdication, thus requiring politicians to craft legislation to make it possible.
The status of the emperor is highly sensitive in Japan given its 20th century history of war waged in the name of Akihito's father Hirohito, who died in 1989.
Revered as a demigod before and during the conflict, Hirohito was reduced to a mere figurehead as part of postwar reforms.
Akihito has won plaudits for seizing upon the constitutionally-prescribed role of national symbol and there is wide sympathy for his wish to retire.
While a majority of the Japanese public supports a permanent law on abdication, they have also expressed support for the current bill for the sake of realising Akihito's smooth transition from the throne.
While abdications are far from unknown in Japanese history, the last one was in 1817.
The leading opposition Democratic Party has argued the law should be permanently changed to ensure stable future successions, but is reportedly on side with the current one-off bill after talks with the ruling bloc.
The issue has also highlighted concerns over a potential succession crisis in one of the world's oldest monarchies.
A government panel in April issued a warning over the dwindling number of male heirs.
Only men are allowed to become emperor under current law, though Japan has had empresses in past centuries.
Female members of the imperial family must give up their royal status when marrying a commoner, underscored by news this week that one of Akihito's granddaughters plans to marry her college sweetheart.
When Naruhito, who has a daughter but no sons, ascends the throne, his younger brother Akishino will be next in line, followed by Hisahito, Akishino's 10-year-old son.
But after that there are no more eligible males, meaning the centuries-old succession would be broken if Hisahito fails to have a son in the future.
Many Japanese believe the sustainability of the throne can be solved by allowing for female succession, but traditionalists vehemently oppose the idea.
Underscoring the urgency of the situation, a government panel tasked with making recommendations on the abdication issue said late last month in its final report that addressing the succession crisis cannot wait.
"The sustainability of the imperial system is in real danger," Takashi Mikuriya, head of the panel, told the Mainichi Shimbun daily in an interview.
This is the second Palestinian journalist to have died by Israeli gunfire
Prime Minister Sharma Oli accepts that rebuilding after 2015 earthquake has remained sluggish
At least 41 Gazans were killed in anti-occupation rallies since last month
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons
'Texas honors all the men and women who protect and serve our communities, and justice will be served,' Texas governor says
Police said the suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was not known to them before Monday's carnage in Canada's most populous city, which also left 15 people injured.
At least 41 Palestinians were martyred by Israeli gunfire on Gaza border since March 30
Talks are expected to tackle the possibility of U.S. troop withdrawal from war-torn Syria
Plans to roll out an appeals process globally in coming months came as Facebook provided a first-ever look at internal standards used to decide what posts go too far in terms of hateful or threating speech.
John Bolton led Gatestone Institute from 2013 until he took his White House position earlier this month
Attack ‘not part of a wider plot and there is no threat to national security’, says public safety minister
That vote, scheduled to take place at about 5:00 pm (2100 GMT), would not end the nomination, but would put a negative recommendation in the hands of the closely-divided full Senate -- where his approval is not guaranteed.
The company said in a message to customers that the attack was detected on January 14, at a time when the app had 14 million users in the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, according to the economic news website Arabian Business.
We hope everyone remains fully committed to implementation and long-term preservation, says UN under-secretary-general
Obama, who met with Mandela in 2005 and who made an emotional address at his funeral, will speak at the lecture marking 100 years since the anti-apartheid icon was born.
A total of 41 Gazans have been martyred by Israeli gunfire since March 30