Japan’s Ruling Party Thrown by PM’s Unexpected Call for Talks on Imperial Succession


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recent unexpected call to expedite discussions on measures to ensure a stable Imperial succession in future years has caused confusion among Liberal Democratic Party members.

Kishida, who is also party president, did not consult with senior party members before making the remarks, and previously stalled discussions on the issue have yet to gather momentum.

Lack of progress

Speaking at an LDP party convention on Feb. 26, Kishida said, “Formulating measures to ensure a stable Imperial succession is an issue we can’t put off, so I intend to push ahead with discussions at the Diet.”

In January last year, the government submitted to the Diet a report compiled by a panel of experts that proposed two measures. One suggestion was to allow female members to remain part of the Imperial family even after marriage, and the other was to use adoption to restore Imperial status to members of former Imperial family lines.

House of Representatives Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda has left the matter up to the parties to discuss, but the LDP has held only one “roundtable meeting” — chaired by Vice President Taro Aso — and talks have made no progress over the past year.

Observers say Kishida’s recent remarks were likely intended to break the current deadlock. But one senior LDP member opined, “The prime minister’s comments were totally unexpected, and he gave no specific instructions.”

For talks to move forward, issues must be addressed such as allowing a female member of the Imperial family or a female member of an Imperial lineage maternal bloodline to become an emperor, or allowing female members to create Imperial family branches. However, conservative members of the party strongly oppose such ideas.

Furthermore, the majority of LDP members are keen to avoid any discussions that could divide the party, especially with local elections looming in April.

Parties stalled

Discussions have also stalled among other parties.

Komeito held a study committee meeting in February last year but got no further than hearing relevant explanations from the government side.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) also established a study committee — headed by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda — in January last year. But views within the party remain divided and no consolidated opinion has emerged. At a press conference on Friday, party leader Kenta Izumi expressed reluctance to share the party’s views, adding, “The LDP should create an environment for discussing the issue.”

The Democratic Party for the People also established a party forum for discussions last year but has yet to reach any conclusions on the issue.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) has been the most proactive of the parties. Last April, Ishin submitted to the Diet a written opinion evaluating a proposal to reinstate male members of the former Imperial families, while also calling for a revision of the Imperial House Law. At a press conference on Feb. 28, Ishin party head Nobuyuki Baba said: “Other parties have put the issue on the back burner. It’s high time to start discussions.”

The Japan News

Asia News Network

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