Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that he will dissolve the Lower House on Friday for a general election in December— roughly halfway through the four-year term of the current members of the chamber. He said he is holding the snap election to ask voters to judge his decision to postpone the second phase of the consumption tax hike by 18 months as well as on whether he should continue with the economic policies that his administration has been carrying out for the past two years.

With popular support of his Cabinet falling in recent media polls but still high for an administration nearly two years in office, Abe’s move smacks of a politically calculated ploy to minimize losses for his Liberal Democratic Party by holding the election while the opposition camp remains splintered and apparently unprepared, and solidify his grip on power with a fresh voter mandate as he faces tough political challenges ahead.

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