In politics, a party leader is the most powerful official within a political party. The leader speaks to their designated political party, while acting as the party representatives. The party leader is typically responsible for managing the party's relationship with the general public. As such, he or she will take a leading role in developing and communicating party policy, especially election platforms, to the electorate. He or she is also typically the public face of the party and the principal media contact.
In many representative democracies, party leaders compete directly for high political office. It is thus typical in such states (e.g., in the Westminster system) for the party leader to seek election to the legislature, and, if elected, to simultaneously serve as the party's parliamentary leader.
In the Gilded Age (late 19th century in the United States), the government was known as Bossism. This government entailed powerful political machines, run by so-called "bosses" who awarded political positions to their associates (one example being Tammany Hall which was run by Boss Tweed) This kind of political system is also referred to as a particracy.
The method of selection of the party leader varies from party to party, though often it will involve an election involving all or part of the party membership. In some parties, only current members of the parliamentary party, or particular party office-holders, may vote; in others, such as the British Labour Party, though the entire membership is eligible to vote, some electors may have a much larger share of the vote than others (see also Superdelegate for a similar concept). If only one candidate emerges, he or she is said to have been "elected by acclamation" or "ratified" by the general membership (sometimes the term "anointed" occurs informally or in media discourse). In Canada, all major parties elect their leaders at a leadership convention.
The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, gained the position on May 11, 2010; he had served as the party leader of the Conservative Party since 2005. Cameron had limited control as Prime Minister in his first term because he formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. The United Kingdom has more influence in electing the party leader than other countries in the Westminster system. Sometimes a party leader will simultaneously hold the post of chairman. However, this occurs only rarely in the Westminster system.
The leaders of communist parties often hold the title of General secretary (e.g. General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China). On 15 November 2012, Xi Jinping was appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party’s 18th national congress.
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