The country's most important Communist Party meeting in five years opens today to shore up power as unprecedented growth and change sweep the land. Nearly 1,200 top communists from across the country will by Monday's close have forged a new leadership and set the tone of future reform at the party's eighth national congress. 'We are seeking continued renewal along the socialist path,' top party official Hong Ha said yesterday, insisting Vietnam's 74 million people had long rejected a multi-party system. 'This is the best preparation for the Vietnamese people to enter the 21st century. 'We recognise the need to promote democracy but we [reject] pluralism and multi-partyism,' he said, implying that any political reform would be kept largely among Vietnam's 2.2 million party members. Secret preliminary votes suggest incumbent party chief Do Muoi will keep the top job, backed by President Le Duc Anh and Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. Months of discussion will culminate in a series of confidential sessions which aim to show a united front at the congress, limiting the chance of free-flowing debate. Mr Ha confirmed that a new executive elite would be formed within the Politburo, which is responsible for the daily running of the country. Diplomats believe the so-called 'standing body' could strengthen Mr Muoi's position and give more power to the military. More non-party members are to be brought in later to the National Assembly, an increasingly outspoken body that passes laws and acts as Vietnam's parliament. The congress is expected to ratify a political report that calls for more action to boost party and state control, but also provides a platform for controlled market reforms. A decade of reforms has pulled Vietnam from the brink of state-controlled collapse - when inflation topped 700 per cent and millions were starving - to one of the world's fastest growing economies. But growth and open door policies have brought threats to the party and to traditional agrarian lifestyles. Foreign investors and economists are calling for more change to get the party-dominated state out of the business arena and create a fair legal system.