Election ‘purdah’ or the pre-election period - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 20 March 2013 | Standard notes SN05262

Authors: Isobel White, Oonagh Gay

Topic: Civil Service, Elections, General elections

The period of time from when an election is announced until after the election is held has been known as ‘purdah’ but is now more often referred to as the pre-election period.

Guidance is issued for civil servants before general and local elections, and to local authorities on their activities during the period before local elections. The Note gives details of the guidance issued before the general election in 2010 and the guidance issued by the devolved executives in 2011.

On 13 March 2013 guidance was issued to civil servants for the period before the local elections taking place on 2 May 2013. The period of sensitivity preceding these elections is not fixed to any particular date, but the general convention is that particular care should be taken in the three weeks preceding the elections, this year from 11 April 2013.

There is statutory guidance for local authorities about publicity during the period just before local elections. The pre-election period is defined as beginning with the last date for the publication of notice of the election; this year this is Tuesday 26 March 2013. The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity is issued under section 4 of the Local Government Act 1986.

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