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For a leader who’s displayed no shortage of tough-guy tendencies, why does Shinzo Abe act so timidly when it comes to Japan’s economy?

That might seem like a strange question to ask today, when the prime minister appears ready to call a dramatic snap election to win support for his economic policies. After an annualized 1.6 percent plunge in third-quarter growth, which has technically pushed Japan back into recession, Abe is hoping for a mandate to postpone a proposed sales-tax increase due next year.

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