Party leader

Last updated


In a governmental system, a party leader acts as the official representative of their political party, either to a legislature or to the electorate. Depending on the country, the individual colloquially referred to as the "leader" of a political party may officially be party chair, secretary, or the highest political office.

The party leader is often responsible for managing the party's relationship with the general public and leading the competition against political rivals, similar to the role of a party spokesperson. As such, they will take a leading role in developing and communicating party platforms to the electorate.

In many representative democracies, party leaders compete directly for high political office. It is thus typical in such states (notably 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 several countries utilizing the parliamentary system, if the party leader's political party emerges with a majority of seats in parliament after a general election, is the leading party in a coalition government, or (in some instances) is the largest party in a minority parliament, that party's leader often serves as the prime minister. In countries using the Westminster system, the leader of the largest political party not within the government serves as the leader of the opposition.



In Canada, the leaders of all major political parties are chosen during their respective political party's leadership conventions upon the completion of a leadership election. Exceptions to this process sometimes occur when Members of Parliament leave their former party to form a new party; examples of this include when Jean-François Fortin quit the Bloc Québécois to form Strength in Democracy in 2014 and when Maxime Bernier quit the Conservative Party to form the People's Party of Canada in 2018.


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) and the officeholder is usually considered the paramount leader of China. On 15 November 2012, Xi Jinping was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China at the 18th Communist Party national congress. [1] [2]


The party organizations themselves and also their representatives (such as the chairperson, who is the party leader, and other board members) play a much more prominent role in German politics than they do in many other countries, where the parties are mainly represented by their members and leaders in government. Although the party leaders often also hold important public offices (such as government minister or parliamentary leader), those roles are clearly separated, even by law. Consequently, it does occasionally happen that the leaders of a German party are not even members of parliament, such as Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, who are currently the chairpersons of the (governing) Social Democrats. This sometimes leads to open conflicts between the party leadership, its parliamentary group and its members of government.


In the Netherlands, the party leaders are the most senior politicians within the political parties in the Netherlands. The leaders outwardly act as the 'figurehead' and the main representative of the party. Within the party, they must ensure political consensus. At election time the leader is always the Lijsttrekker (top candidate) of the party list. Outside election time the leaders most often serve as Parliamentary leader of their party in the House of Representatives, some party leaders opt to serve in the cabinet as a minister.

In the Third Rutte cabinet, the only party leader in the cabinet was Prime Minister Mark Rutte the leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), while the leaders of the other parties in the coalition: Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma, Democrats 66 (D66) leader Alexander Pechtold and Christian Union (CU) leader Gert-Jan Segers opted to remain as Parliamentary leaders in House of Representatives.


In the Republic of China, all of the political party leaders are elected by party chairmanship elections. The leader of the main ruling party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Cho Jung-tai was elected in the 2018 DPP chairmanship by-election on 6 January 2019. The leader of the main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) Wu Den-yih was elected in the 2017 Kuomintang chairmanship election on 20 May 2017.

South Korea

In the Republic of Korea, Representatives of most political parties are elected through elections of party members. The representative of the Democratic Party of Korea is Song Young-gil, who was elected in May 2021, and the representative of the conservative opposition PPP is Lee Jun-seok, a famous young politician who was elected in June 2021. In the party's presidential election, it is also elected through public opinion polls, not party members.

United Kingdom

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, they are said to be "elected by acclamation" or "ratified" by the general membership (sometimes the term "anointed" occurs informally or in media discourse).

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, gained the position on 24 July 2019; he has served as the party leader of the Conservative Party since 23 July 2019. Sir Keir Starmer is currently leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition.

United States

Joe Biden, as the US President, is the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. Joe Biden presidential portrait (cropped).jpg
Joe Biden, as the US President, is the de facto leader of the Democratic Party.

If elected, political parties have party leaders in the executive branch of the United States government. The President, currently Joe Biden, becomes the de facto leader of their respective political party once elected, and the Vice President, currently Kamala Harris, likewise holds a leadership role as both the second-highest executive officer and the President of the Senate.

The legislative branch, otherwise known as the United States Congress, is made up of the upper chamber, the Senate, and the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, with party-elected leaders in each. The leader of the party with most of the representation (sometimes called the party-in-power) in each case is known as the majority leader, whereas the leader of the opposing party with the most members is known as the minority leader.

Party leaders in the United States Senate have been elected by their respective political parties' caucuses since 1913. They currently include President of the Senate Kamala Harris, President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate Patrick Leahy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin on the Democratic side, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Whip John Thune on the Republican side.

The party leaders of the House of Representatives are elected by their respective parties in the House by secret ballot. The Republican Party is currently represented in the House by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, whereas the Democratic Party is represented by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. In the House of Representatives, the most powerful official is the House-elected Speaker, who is currently Nancy Pelosi of the Democratic Party.

Currently, Jaime Harrison serves as the chair of the Democratic Party, while Ronna McDaniel serves as the chair of the Republican Party.

See also

Related Research Articles

Party leaders of the United States Senate Wikimedia list article

The positions of Majority Leader and Minority Leader are held by two United States senators and members of the party leadership of the United States Senate. They serve as the chief spokespersons for their respective political parties holding the majority and the minority in the United States Senate. They are each elected as majority leader and minority leader by the senators of their party caucuses: the Senate Democratic Caucus and the Senate Republican Conference.

A whip is an official of a political party whose task is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. This means ensuring that members of the party vote according to the party platform, rather than according to their own individual ideology or the will of their donors or constituents. Whips are the party's "enforcers". They try to ensure that their fellow political party legislators attend voting sessions and vote according to their party's official policy. Members who vote against party policy may "lose the whip", being effectively expelled from the party.

A crossbencher is an independent or minor party member of some legislatures, such as the British House of Lords and the Parliament of Australia. They take their name from the crossbenches, between and perpendicular to the government and opposition benches, where crossbenchers sit in the chamber.

Michigan Senate Upper state chamber of Michigan

The Michigan Senate is the upper house of the Michigan Legislature. Along with the Michigan House of Representatives, it composes the state legislature, which has powers, roles and duties defined by Article IV of the Michigan Constitution, adopted in 1963. The primary purpose of the Legislature is to enact new laws and amend or repeal existing laws.

In politics, a party chair is the presiding officer of a political party. The nature and importance of the position differs from country to country, and also between political parties.

Mississippi State Senate

The Mississippi Senate is the upper house of the Mississippi Legislature, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Mississippi. The Senate, along with the lower Mississippi House of Representatives, convenes at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson.

Senate of Puerto Rico Subnational legislature

The Senate of Puerto Rico is the upper house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the territorial legislature of Puerto Rico. The Senate, together with the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, control the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico.

House of Representatives of Puerto Rico Lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico

The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico is the lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the bicameral territorial legislature of Puerto Rico. The House, together with the Senate, control the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico.

Rhode Island House of Representatives

The Rhode Island House of Representatives is the lower house of the Rhode Island General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Rhode Island, the upper house being the Rhode Island Senate. It is composed of 75 members, elected to two year terms from 75 districts of equal population. The Rhode Island General Assembly does not have term limits. The House meets at the Rhode Island State Capitol in Providence.

Democratic Party of Illinois Political party

The Democratic Party of Illinois is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the U.S. state of Illinois. It is the oldest extant state party in Illinois and one of just two recognized parties in the state, along with the Republican Party.

74th United States Congress 1935–1937 U.S. Congress

The 74th United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from January 3, 1935, to January 3, 1937, during the third and fourth years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Fifteenth Census of the United States in 1930.

House of Representatives (Nigeria) Lower chamber of Nigerias bicameral National Assembly

The House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Nigeria's bicameral National Assembly. The Senate is the upper chamber.

Michigan Democratic Party Political party in Michigan

The Michigan Democratic Party is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the state of Michigan. It is based in Lansing. Lavora Barnes is the party's current chair. She was previously the party's Chief Operating Officer.

The Utah Democratic Party is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the U.S. state of Utah. Its platform focuses on economic security, equal opportunity, the common good, and American leadership. The party is a big tent party.

Oklahoma Senate Upper house of Oklahomas legislature

The Oklahoma Senate is the upper house of the two houses of the Legislature of Oklahoma, the other being the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The total number of senators is set at 48 by the Oklahoma Constitution.

Iowa Senate

The Iowa Senate is the upper house of the Iowa General Assembly, United States. There are 50 seats in the Iowa Senate, representing 50 single-member districts across the state of Iowa with populations of approximately 60,927 per constituency, as of the 2010 United States Census. Each Senate district is composed of two House districts. The Senate meets at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

Dutch cabinet formation

The formation of a Dutch cabinet is the process of negotiating an agreement that will get majority support in parliament for the appointment of the council of ministers and gives sufficient confidence that agreed policies will be supported by parliament. Dutch cabinet formations tend to be a time-consuming process, and the process is for the most part not codified in the constitution.

Party leaders of the United States House of Representatives Wikimedia list article

Party leaders and whips of the United States House of Representatives, also known as floor leaders, are elected by their respective parties in a closed-door caucus by secret ballot. With the Democrats holding a majority of seats and the Republicans holding a minority, the current leaders are Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise.


  1. "The China Renaissance: the rise of Xi Jinping and the 18th Communist party congress (eBook, 2013) [UC Santa Barbara Library]". Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  2. Buckley, Chris (30 October 2016). "Xi Jinping Is China's 'Core' Leader: Here's What It Means" . Retrieved 12 April 2018 via