Abe agonistes

WHEN Shinzo Abe last called a snap general election, just two years after coming to power in 2012, Japan’s prime minister saw an opposition in disarray and a chance to consolidate seats in the Diet. Yet he presented the election as a matter of high principle: in the face of a sluggish economy he had chosen to delay a long-agreed rise in Japan’s consumption (value-added) tax, and such a portentous decision required the people’s approval. Mr Abe won handily. Now, principle appears to demand yet another election soon.
That is because, with an economy refusing to show any bounce, Mr Abe may well announce that he is putting off the tax hike (from 8% to 10% and promised for April 2017) a second time. Perhaps he will do so after he hosts a summit for G7 leaders in May. Precedent would make it very hard for him not to dissolve the Diet and announce a general election over the matter. The betting is that he would fix the election for the same time as a scheduled poll in June or July for half of the seats in the upper house.

Some of his colleagues want Mr Abe to hurry up and call a general election sooner, before his luck runs out. There are...

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