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In politics, the party leader is the most powerful official within a political party. He/She speaks to his/her political party and represents them.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. For example, leaders of parties in presidential and semi-presidential republics will often run for President. In parliamentary systems of government, party leaders typically seek to become prime minister. 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.
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" is used informally or in media discourse). In Canada, all major parties elect their leaders at a leadership convention.
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).
In the Gilded Age (late 19th century in the United States) there existed a system called Bossism which 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.
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