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The divide between the former Sohyo and Domei group unions in Rengo remains strong today.They hold totally divergent views on such issues as restarting idled nuclear power plants.

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The split in the Diet vote on the casino legislation and in the metropolitan assembly has brought the two parties' relations to a crossroads.While the party was forecast to be strong in constituencies in Hokkaido and northeastern Honshu, it was seen as no match against the LDP-led alliance in much of western Japan.Abe eventually decided not to dissolver the Lower House at the beginning of the year -- as had been speculated -- both because he determined that the LDP stood to lose seats and because of the prime minister's tight diplomatic schedule in the early part of 2017, including the Trump inauguration.Ichiro Matsui, which this time may have served as a ceremony for Nippon Ishin's de facto entry into the ruling coalition.Senior LDP leaders appear to be looking further ahead -- at the prospect of the main opposition force, the Democratic Party, disintegrating and some of its members joining hands with the LDP.Signs of the party's possible collapse were already visible during the Diet session last fall -- the first since Renho took over the party's leadership.

Even though the DP officially declared its opposition to all of the contested bills, all its Lower House members ended up abstaining from the vote on the bills at the plenary session because the party was unable even to adopt a unified position among its lawmakers.

Suga reportedly told people close to him that the prime minister, as he seeks to survive the turbulent international political developments, wants to maintain his coalition's stable hold on Diet majority.

Another hidden motive behind postponing the general election is that the party hopes, in the meantime, to maneuver for the DP's further decline and eventual disintegration -- and build a new coalition that incorporates some DP members, according to a senior LDP leader.

Opposition remains deep-seated within Rengo toward campaign cooperation among opposition parties -- in particular between the DP and the Japanese Communist Party.

Rengo President Rikio Kozu, writing in a recent edition of the Bungei Shunju magazine, warned the DP "not to shake hands with the Communist Party." Such a message takes on an added significance since LDP Secretary General Nikai has been holding secret talks with Kozu -- apparently with the old LDP-Komeito-Democratic Socialist alliance in mind.

Four years after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power, his administration continues to enjoy an unusually high approval ratings of more than 50 percent, and the prime minister's grip on power remains unrivaled.