Last night's announcement that Gu Kailai, the wife of fallen Politburo member Bo Xilai, is being prosecuted for the murder of a British expat indicates the leadership in Beijing is eager to put an end to the scandal before the crucial party congress later this year. The government said Gu and family aide Zhang Xiaojun had been charged over the poisoning of businessman Neil Heywood. 'The decision suggests the leadership is eager to put an end to the political scandal as soon as possible in an effort to create a favourable and harmonious atmosphere for the 18th party congress,' said Zhang Lifan, a political affairs analyst, who was formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Zhang said that factions within the party, locked in a struggle over the next leadership line-up and its policy direction, had agreed to limit the damage to the party's image. 'They are hoping to move beyond a scandal that has exposed a leadership split and threatens to lay bare corruption in the party's highest ranks,' Zhang said. Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, agreed, saying it was evident the leadership was trying to limit the fallout 'as much as possible'. Zhang and Hu said the prosecution of Gu might signal that Beijing was seeking an end to the entire saga, including matters relating to Bo and his right-hand man Wang Lijun. Wang was the former police chief of Chongqing, and appears to have sought protection at the US consulate in Chengdu. Hu said party censors had moved in recent months to scrub the internet of unapproved references to the affair, blocking all mention of Bo's family members and related figures, as well as the many nicknames and puns that microbloggers had employed to evade censorship. 'It was a calculated move to stanch speculation about discord among the party's closed leadership and ensure a smooth transition of power in the months ahead,' Hu said. The 18th party congress will usher in a once-in-a-decade transfer of power. 'The decision to prosecute Gu is aimed at putting an end to persistent rumours and speculation on friction within the leadership in the months ahead of the party congress,' Hu said. Zhang said that it was unacceptable to the party to allow the scandal, which has been widely reported around the world, to continue to unfold, given the damage it can cause to the domestic and international image of the leadership. Before his downfall, Bo, 62, won widespread popularity and became a rival to the party's mainstream leaders with his aggressive neo-Maoist campaign to transform Chongqing. But he also reportedly enriched himself and his family during the metropolis' freewheeling boom days, raising questions of corruption.