In government, the officer who serves as head of state and sometimes also as chief executive. In countries where the president is chief of state but not of government, the role is largely ceremonial, with few or no political powers. Presidents may be elected directly or indirectly, for a limited or unlimited number of terms. In the U.S., the president's chief duty is to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, which he does through various executive agencies and with the aid of his cabinet. He also serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, nominates judges to the Supreme Court, and makes treaties with foreign governments (contingent on Senate approval). The office of president is used in governments in South and Central America, Africa, and elsewhere. In western Europe executive power is generally vested in a prime minister and his cabinet, and the president, where the office exists, has few responsibilities (though France is a significant exception).
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Later this usage was applied to political leaders, including the leaders of some of the Thirteen Colonies (originally Virginia in 1608); in full, the "President of the Council".. The first President of a country was George Washington, the President of the United States. In America the title was 'upgraded' from its earlier use for the President of the Continental Congress, the "officer in charge of the Continental Congress" since 1774.
As other countries followed the American Revolution, and deposed their monarchies, president was commonly adopted as the title for the new republican heads of state. The first European president was the president of France, a post created in the Second Republic of 1848. (The First Republic had begun with no separate executive, then established five directors, and finally echoed the ancient Roman Republic by appointing three consuls at its head.)
The first president of an internationally recognized African state was the President of Liberia in 1848.
Today, most republics have a President as their head of state.
Presidents in this system are either directly elected by popular vote or indirectly elected by an electoral college.
In the United States of America, the President is indirectly elected by the Electoral College made up of electors chosen by voters in the presidential election. In most U.S. states, each elector is committed to voting for a specified candidate determined by the popular vote in each state, so that the people, in voting for each elector, is in effect voting for the candidate. However, in several close U.S. elections (notably 1876, 1888, 2000), the candidate with the most popular votes still lost the electoral count.
In Mexico, the President is directly elected for a six-year term by popular vote. The candidate who wins the most votes is elected president even if he does not have an absolute majority. In Mexico, every presidential election will always be a non-incumbent election. The 2006 Mexican elections had a fierce competition, the electoral results showed a minimal difference between the two most voted candidates and such difference was just about the 0.58% of the total vote. The Federal Electoral Tribunal declared an elected President after a controversial post-electoral process.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla appointed himself in 82 BC to an entirely new office, dictator rei publicae constituendae causa, which was functionally identical to the dictatorate rei gerendae causa except that it lacked any set time limit, although Sulla held this office for over two years before he voluntarily abdicated and retired from public life. The second well-known incident of a leader extending his term indefinitely was Roman dictator Julius Caesar, who made himself "Perpetual Dictator" (commonly mistranslated as 'Dictator-for-life') in 45 BC. His actions would later be mimicked by the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte who was appointed "First Consul for life" in 1802.
Ironically, most leaders who proclaim themselves President for Life do not in fact successfully serve a life term. Even so presidents like Alexandre Sabès dit Pétion, Rafael Carrera, Josip Broz Tito and François Duvalier died in office.
Several presidents have ruled until their death, but they have not officially proclaimed themselves as President for Life. For instance, Nicolae Ceauşescu of Romania, who ruled until his execution (see Romanian revolution). Archbishop President Makarios became president of Cyprus late in his life (in 1960) and ruled until his death in 1977, having successfully won re-election several times.
Furthermore in some nations the Presidency enjoys certain symbols of office, such as an official uniform, decorations, a presidential seal, coat of arms, flag and other visible accessories; military honours such as gun salutes, Ruffles and flourishes, and a presidential guard. A common presidential symbol is the presidential sashes worn by Latin American presidents as a symbol of the presidency's continuity, and presenting the sash to the new president.
However, such an official is explicitly not the president of the country. Rather, he is called a president in an older sense of the word to denote the fact that he heads the cabinet. A separate head of state generally exists in their country that instead serves as the president or monarch of the country.
Thus, such officials are really premiers, and to avoid confusion are often described simply as 'prime minister' when being mentioned internationally.
There are several examples for this kind of presidency:
The head of a university or non-profit corporation, particularly in the United States of America, is often known as president. In university systems with multiple independent campuses, the relationship between the roles of president and chancellor can become quite complicated. President is also a title in many corporations. In some cases the president acts as chief operating officer under the direction of the chief executive officer. Alternatively, in the U.S., the chairperson of the board of directors may be called the president.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the head of the church is known as the President. Together with his two counselors, they are known as the First Presidency. This pattern is repeated throughout the church in quorums and in other bodies, each of which is led by a president. The Methodist Church in the UK (and also other provinces) is led by the President of the Methodist Council, and assumes the role of leading minister and spokesperson.
Many other organisations, clubs, and committees, both political and non-political are led by Presidents as well. Examples can vary from the President of a political party, to the president of a chamber of commerce, to the President of a students' union and even the president of a high school chess club.