CONDUCTING exit polls is legal, but it is an offense to announce the results before the voting is over, the Ministry of Interior’s election service announced on Wednesday.
Five days before the Sunday elections, the Chief Returning Officer said that announcing the results of exit polls before the polls closed at 6pm may result in prosecution “for inappropriate and illegal influence and / or affecting voters”.
Carrying out virtual voting (exit polls) outside the polling stations on election day, for purposes of prediction of the final election results, is not prohibited by the electoral law, the announcement said, provided that the results will be made public after the announcement of the General Elections Registrar that all polls have closed.
Therefore, it said, “all those companies and TV stations that intend to conduct exit polls, should they announce the results before the polls are closed, their management may be prosecuted for violating the electoral law”.
In the case they break the law, they face being charged for “violation of ballot secrecy or for preventing the free exercise of electoral rights of voters or coerce, mislead or illegally interfere with the purpose of influencing the voter”. If found guilty, they face being sentenced to several months in prison and / or a fine or both penalties, it said.
Moreover, the Chief Returning Officer also announced that, during the sorting and counting of the votes, political party representatives are not allowed to possess or use any of the ballot papers or the entry forms for results of elections for any purpose.
“Delegates will be mere observers of the process, which will be accomplished solely by public officials,” the announcement said.
It added that “the presiding officer has the power to remove from the polling station any party / candidate representative who violates the election law, without warning.”