Dechen Dolkar 

The 48-hour blackout period for the fourth National Assembly elections 2023-24 begins at 8am today, extending until the end of polls on November 30.  

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) issued the notification in accordance with Section 305 of the Election Act, which stipulates that no candidate or political party is permitted to convene public meetings or engage in campaigning on the day of the poll and during the 48 hours preceding the commencement of the poll. 

During this blackout period, the publication, broadcast, or transmission of any material resembling an election campaign, supporting or opposing any candidate on any media platform, is strictly prohibited. 

Individuals are also barred from conducting campaigns on any social media groups. However, the ECB said that authorised campaign materials posted during the campaign period can be retained if they are not within 100 meters of the polling station.  

No one is allowed to undertake any public activity, event, or decision that could potentially influence voters in favor of or against a candidate. The ECB warned that individuals or candidates resorting to such unlawful acts would face legal consequences. 

In addition, the ECB, as per Section 343 of the Election Act 2008, highlighted that no person is allowed to broadcast, telecast, or publish, before the close of the poll, any statement or news related to how voters have voted in the elections.  

Public opinion survey reports and forecasts or predictions regarding the probable result of the elections are also restricted from being released to the general public prior to the closure of the poll. 

The blackout period, as per the ECB, is imposed to fulfill the “noble intention of providing conducive time and space for proper reflection and exercise of franchise” by the electorate.

Polling hours will be from 8am to 4pm across 809 polling stations. 

Voters already in the queue at 4pm will be allowed to vote, with tokens issued to those in the queue. Presiding officers and polling officers for the elections will be reaching to their respective polling stations today. More than 3,200 election officials are deployed for the poll day. The international border gates along southern Bhutan will remain closed from 6pm on November 29 to 6pm on November 30.