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Japanese leader paves way for 'Empress Aiko'

January 19, 2006
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Japan's little princess Aiko looks all but certain to one day become Empress of her homeland after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced plans to tackle the issue of gender-specific accession in the Imperial Household. The politician extinguished any remaining doubt that his government would act to amend with the constitution, which currently prevents female heirs from taking the throne, when he told parliament he would present a reform bill later this year.

Under the current system only boys are allowed to become emperors, but the royal family has found itself facing a crisis as no male children have been born into the family for 40 years. The current ruler Emperor Akihito has two sons, Naruhito and Akishino, but his grandchildren are all girls.

The prime minister did not give any specific details on what the forthcoming bill would contain, but he did say it would be in line with the conclusions of a government panel which last year recommended first born children of either sex be allowed to accede. In his annual keynote speech to the Japanese parliament, he said the proposal would be designed "in order that the Imperial throne be continued into the future in a stable manner".

One person who will be especially pleased by his declaration is Crown Princess Masako. The former diplomat has fought a long-running battle with emotional problems which have been blamed on the intense pressure on her to produce a male heir.

Political experts say the reform is all but guaranteed to be given the green light by both houses of parliament. Majority support from the public is also required, but nationwide opinion polls show 80 per cent of the Japanese people are in favour of "Empress Aiko" one day taking the throne.

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Photo: ©
Aiko, seen here with her parents Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, looks set to one day inherit the Chrysanthemum throne. The country's prime minister said his reform bill would be designed "in order that the Imperial throne be continued into the future in a stable manner"Photo: © AFP

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