Election silence

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Election silence,[1] pre-election silence, electoral silence, or campaign silence[2] is a ban on political campaigning prior to a presidential or general election. Some jurisdictions have declared that, legally, election silence is in violation of law regarding freedom of speech. It is however used in some of the world's democracies "in order to balance out the campaigning and maintain a free voting environment".[2]


An election silence operates in some countries to allow a period for voters to reflect on events before casting their votes.[2] During this period no active campaigning by the candidates is allowed. Often polling is also banned. The silence is generally legally enforced, though in some countries it is just a "gentlemen's agreement" between leading parties.[2]

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burson v. Freeman (1992) that campaigning can only be limited on election day in a small area around the polling station. Any broader ban on speech would be unconstitutional.[3] In Bulgaria, the constitutional court ruled in 2009 that both electoral silence and ban on opinion polls before the election day represented a violation of freedom of speech. The Constitutional Court of Hungary ruled in 2007 that ban on opinion polls was unconstitutional, but upheld electoral silence.[4] The Constitutional Court of Slovenia ruled in 2011 that a ban on opinion polls was unconstitutional.[5] Per Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, Canada once banned the distribution of election results in regions of the country where polls have not yet closed, so results from ridings in the Eastern and Atlantic provinces would not influence results in the west.[6] This ban, although upheld by the Supreme Court, was repealed in 2012.

The most common phrase used in English is "blackout period".


Election silences are observed in the following countries, amongst others. Their duration, prior to the election, is given in brackets:

  • Armenia (24 hours)[7]
  • Argentina (48 hours)
  • Australia (from midnight on the Wednesday before polling day to the close of polls on polling day—always a Saturday)[8]
  • Azerbaijan (24 hours before voting)
  • Barbados (polling day and previous)[9]
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (24 hours)
  • Bulgaria (24 hours in advance of polling day and on polling day)[10]
  • Canada (No campaigning on election day)[11] See Federal Elections Blackout
  • Croatia (from 00:00 on the preceding day)[12]
  • Czech Republic (3 days)
  • Egypt (48 hours)
  • France (on the Saturday before the Sunday election; polling silence included)
  • Hungary (from 00:00 on the preceding day)[13]
  • India (48 to 24 hrs. in advance of polling day and on polling day)
  • Indonesia (3 days prior to voting day)[14]
  • Italy (from 00:00 on the preceding day), polling banned from 15 days before elections, it is prohibited to say the names of candidates on television in the month before elections (except for TV news programs and regulated electoral advertising)
  • Republic of Macedonia (from 00:00 on the preceding day)
  • Malaysia (election day)
  • Malta (from 00:00 on the preceding day until the polls close on election day; since elections always fall on a Saturday, this means that the silence period starts on Friday at midnight)
  • Montenegro (48 hours)[15]
  • Mozambique (48 hours for campaigning; polling during the entire campaign period)[16]
  • New Zealand (between 00:00 and 19:00 on election day).[17]
  • Pakistan (24 hours)
  • Paraguay (48 hours) [18]
  • Philippines (From Holy Thursday to Black Saturday if the Holy Week is covered on the Campaign Period) (from 00:00 on the preceding day)
  • Poland (from 00:00 on the preceding day)[19] since 1991
  • Russia (24 hours)[20]
  • Singapore (24 hours) called "cooling-off day" first implemented on 2011[21]
  • Serbia (from 00:00 two days before election day)[22]
  • Slovenia (from 00:00 on the preceding day)
  • Spain (24 hours before election day) called "reflection day", which is always a Saturday. Polling is banned five days prior to election day, although there are some legal tricks, like publishing abroad[23]
  • Ukraine (from 00:00 on the preceding day)[24]
  • Uruguay (from 00:00 two days before election day)
  • Venezuela (election day)[25]

The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network shows a map of blackout periods around the world.