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Shinzo Abe opts to delay enactment of prosecutor retirement bill

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

Tokyo, May 19 (UITV/IANS)- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to postpone seeking the passage of a contentious bill aimed at extending the retirement age of public prosecutors, amid a backlash from opposition parties and the public.

Abe and secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshihiro Nikai, on Monday agreed that going ahead with the plan would be tough amid such disapproval from the opposition camp and the public, reports Xinhua news agency.

"It's essential to listen to the voices of the people thoroughly and without their understanding we cannot move it forward," Abe told a press briefing.

Abe was making reference to the proposed revision of the Public Prosecutors Office Law and plans for the passage of the bill through the lower house this week.

Condemnation from the opposition camp and the public against the bill that would revise the law and raise the retirement age for prosecutors to 65 has increased of late, with many believing the move would undermine the independence of prosecutors, with calls also being made that the government's priority should be focused on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Opposition parties want a clause in the bill removed that would allow the cabinet to extent the retirement age of senior prosecutors by up to three years.

Abe and Nikai both conceded on Monday that the government's top priority should be responding to the pandemic.

"We will turn the voices of the people into power and work toward our goal of scrapping a system that would enable the arbitrary extension of certain senior posts," said Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, at a party meeting.

The retirement of Hiromu Kurokawa, the head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, was postponed until August, which was six months after his retirement age, following a decision made by the government in January.

The decision was rebuked by the opposition parties and the public, with claims made that by dubiously changing the interpretation of the law, Kurokawa's tenure could be extended.

The controversy over the contentious bill has, along with opposition parties, drawn a lot of vocal criticism from the public and high profile celebrities, who have been ardently calling for the bill to be permanently scrapped.

The Japanese hashtag meaning "I oppose the revision of the public prosecutors office law" began trending on Twitter from May 8 has attracted the support of more and more actresses and pop singers, as well as regular members of the public.