Almost a year since he resigned as leader due to health reasons, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is back on the political stage, albeit behind the scenes — a development that has coincided with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s tumbling poll numbers and the Liberal Democratic Party's looming presidential election, which is likely to be held at the end of September.

In September last year, Suga became prime minister with the support of the erstwhile leader and the LDP's Hosoda faction, of which Abe was a member, as well as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and his group. Without the backing of Abe in particular, it’s unlikely Suga, who belongs to no faction and was Abe's chief Cabinet secretary, could have garnered enough votes to win the LDP presidency and thus the prime ministership.

Over the past few months, the former prime minister has aligned himself with Aso and Akira Amari, who served as trade minister during Abe’s first term from 2006 to 2007 and then as his economic revitalization minister when Abe returned to power in 2012. The “3As” — as Abe, Aso and Amari have been dubbed — have long been close personally and ideologically. They are now in a battle for control of the party with Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, who assumed his post in August 2016 and has held it for the longest time on record.