THE Chinese leadership is badly divided over who should take the Politburo seat left vacant by the disgraced Beijing party boss Chen Xitong.
Analysts said wrangling over the key appointment could go on until the sixth plenum of the party Central Committee next year.
Before the fifth plenum, held last week, senior politicians had proposed various candidates to fill the post created when Chen was kicked out for corruption, but none could secure enough backing.
One suggestion, backed by premier Li Peng and other members of the so-called Beijing Faction, is that the seat be given to a cadre based in the capital, or failing that, in nearby Tianjin.
Mr Chen's successor as Beijing municipality party chief, Wei Jianxing, is already a Politburo member. However, he was appointed to the supreme council in 1992 in his capacity as the Secretary of the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection and head of the official trade union.
Most Central Committee members, however, felt there was no one on either the Beijing or Tianjin party committee of the calibre for Politburo membership.
The names of the two new vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, General Zhang Wannian and General Chi Haotian also came up for discussion. Their candidature received the support of the 'military lobby', including the 22 per cent of the Central Committee who are army officers.
One source said, however, that the leadership, including President Jiang Zemin, who is ordinarily a supporter of army interests, felt the appointment of one more army Politburo member would cause disquiet among China's neighbours and in diplomatic circles.
At the fifth plenum, the majority of Central Committee members favoured promoting a leader of the central and western provinces, but they failed to agree on a candidate.
At the moment, the Politburo has representatives from Shanghai, Shandong, and Guangdong but nobody from the hinterland.
It is understood the maverick Governor of Sichuan, Xiao Yang, was among the names mentioned.
The well-known liberal leader was slated for the Politburo in late 1992, but his candidacy was shot down by conservative elements in Sichuan as well as Beijing.
Analysts expect central and western regions will be given another chance next year if Guangdong party secretary Xie Fei, a Politburo member, retires.