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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that he will dissolve the Lower House for a snap election when the Diet convenes for an extraordinary session Thursday, in a high-stakes political gamble that observers say could determine whether he survives as Japan’s leader.

At a news conference Monday evening, Abe sought to justify the expected election on Oct. 22— widely criticized as an attempt at self-preservation — as an opportunity to seek a public mandate on his decision to divert revenue from the planned 2019 consumption tax hike to education and social security, despite the nation’s snowballing public debt.

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