A power tussle between Vietnam's Prime Minister and the country's most influential leader is overshadowing a meeting of the ruling Communist Party, a rare occurrence for a party accustomed to tranquil internal politics.
Called the 12th Party Congress, the eight-day event that began on Wednesday will nominate candidates for the country's top political posts. Most at stake is the title of General Secretary of the Communist Party, considered the most powerful position, surpassing even the Prime Minister.
Current Prime Minister (PM) Nguyen Tan Dung is reported to be seeking the role of General Secretary as his term comes to an end, and that's created tensions with incumbent Nguyen Phu Trong given the two's opposing policy agendas.
"Dung is seen as being pro-reform and is expected to push ahead with an economic liberalization agenda, as well as continuing the process of building closer political and economic relations with the U.S," explained Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight.
Dung made headlines in 2014 when he demanded that Beijing stop deploying oil rigs into a disputed territory in the South China Sea, known as the Paracel Islands or Xisha islands in China. His assertive stance to China's aggressive expansion in the area festered tensions between the two nations after Vietnam saw deadly anti-Chinese riots earlier that year.
"Trong meanwhile is expected to take a more cautious approach to economic reforms, continuing to follow a state-led model of economic planning that will downplay economic reforms of state-owned enterprises and be more restrained in building Vietnam's ties with the U.S," said Biswas.