TOKYO - The engagement announcement of the Japanese Emperor's eldest grandchild Princess Mako has sparked a debate among political parties over whether female members of the Imperial family should be allowed to keep their royal status if they marry a commoner.
Amid parliamentary discussions on the abdication bill, the main opposition Democratic Party has called for a system that would allow female members to establish branches of the family after marrying a commoner, which is expected to be included in the same bill, local media said Thursday.
The DP revealed its draft of a parliamentary resolution to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party during a meeting on Wednesday, which calls for the government to revise rules that have governed the Imperial family since 1947.
The family has shrunk in recent years due to very few male births, putting at risk the continuity of the world's oldest reigning hereditary dynasty.
Conservative parliamentarians have been reluctant to contemplate this possibility and at a meeting held at the beginning of the week, about 20 politicians, most of them from the LDP, pledged to quash any proposal in this regard, according to the Japanese daily Asahi.
The two parties will try to reach an agreement by this weekend before beginning parliamentary deliberations on the abdication bill, which was approved by the Japanese government on May 19.
The abdication bill is applicable only to Akihito since the legislation does not have any provisions for a living succession.
The announcement last week of Princess Mako's engagement to her university boyfriend created a stir in Japan and rekindled the debate over Imperial house legislation reforms, which was shelved when the conservative Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012.
The Japanese imperial family has 19 members, of whom just five are male and entitled to the throne.
Thy are Emperor Akihito, 83; his brother Prince Hitachi, 81; Prince Naruhito, 57; Prince Akishino, 51; and Prince Hisahito, 10; the only grandson of the monarch.