The periodic conference of a political party, used for deciding policy and/or for nominating candidates.
The policy‐forming convention is characteristic especially of European socialist parties. Some, including the British Labour Party, have had long arguments about whether the party convention, the parliamentary party, or the leader is finally responsible for deciding party policy. Whatever the formal position may be, no party leadership in practice allows the party convention to have the final say. In right‐wing parties, the party convention is typically designed to be a rally of the faithful rather than a policy‐forming body.
The nominating convention is a prominent feature of politics in the United States. The Democratic and Republican parties each hold a convention in the summer preceding each Presidential election (that is, in years divisible by four). The purpose is to nominate the party's candidate for President. States have votes roughly in proportion to the number of Electoral College votes which they control. In recent years, nominating conventions have been foregone conclusions because one candidate has always amassed pledges from more than half of the delegates before the convention meets. However, that is a recent development. The 1880 Democratic convention went to thirty‐six ballots before choosing James A. Garfield (who won the Presidency, and was assassinated shortly afterwards). State parties may give their pledges to favorite sons, who are not expected to win, but who may be able to use their vote as a bargaining tool. Therefore, future conventions which do real work are not ruled out.