Photo/IllutrationTakashi Mikuriya, an acting chairman of the council of intellectuals, replies to a question after the council’s meeting at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on Jan. 11. (Takeshi Iwashita)

A government advisory panel plans to propose three methods on enabling Emperor Akihito’s abdication to avoid criticism that the public is having no say in the sensitive issue, sources said Jan. 11.

The council had been leaning toward proposing just one method: enactment of a special case law that would allow only the current emperor to retire. But lawmakers and the public voiced opposition because Diet members, representing the people, would be left out of the decision-making process.

To address such concerns, the council put two other methods on the table: revising the Imperial House Law to make abdication a permanent system; and adding a stipulation to that law as a basis for the future enactment of the special case law.

The council, headed by Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), plans to show the merits and demerits of each of the three methods.

“It is important to deepen the people’s understanding (on abdication) by showing disputed points and challenges in an easy-to-understand manner,” Takashi Mikuriya, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Tokyo and an acting chairman of the council, said at a news conference after the council’s meeting on Jan. 11.

Shigetaka Yamasaki, the Cabinet Affairs Office director-general who works in the council’s secretariat, said participants at the meeting decided to pursue wide-ranging discussions among the people before a decision is reached.

In the council’s previous meeting held on Dec. 14, members confirmed that it would be difficult to revise the Imperial House Law, citing, among other factors, the expected lengthy debate in the Diet.

“I feel that enactment of the special case law (without revising the Imperial House Law) has been authorized by the council as a whole,” Mikuriya told reporters after that meeting.

In the Jan. 11 meeting, which lasted two hours, however, the council decided to propose three methods apparently out of consideration for Diet members.

The speaker and vice speaker of the Lower House and the president and vice president of the Upper House are scheduled to hold a meeting on Jan. 16 to discuss how representatives of the ruling and opposition parties should proceed with Diet deliberations on the issue. Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima, who had raised concerns about the possibility of the council making the final decision in advance, has called for Diet debate.

Shigeru Ishiba, the former state minister in charge of local revitalization and a heavyweight in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also raised the issue of Diet involvement at a meeting of his intraparty faction in December.

“Media reports say that a special case law will be enacted to make the emperor’s abdication possible,” he said. “But it is not the council of intellectuals but us (Diet members) who make the decision.”

Akihito, 83, in a video message broadcast to the nation in August last year, expressed a strong desire to abdicate, mentioning his health and age.

There are no provisions in the Imperial House Law on the abdication of the emperor.