Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznañ
The Election Silence in contemporary democracies.
Questions about the sense of election silence in the Age
Abstract: Information and Communication Technologies impact the democratic institutions and proce-
dures to a great extent. One of examples of mechanisms affected by the use of ICT is so called election
silence. The idea of election silence to provide voters with a peaceful, free from political agitation, con-
ditions to consider and make final decision on elections. Despite the ban on campaigning during the elec-
tion silence, many Internet users campaign for politicians or political parties, violating the existing law.
The main aim of this article is to answer the questions about the ways of breaking the pre-election silence
and about sense of this mechanism in the Internet age. The motivation to focus on this topic was the ap-
pearance of both: a large number of media reports on political agitation in the Internet and doubts about
the continuing sense of functioning of the election silence.
Key words: election silence, Internet, agitation, campaign, violation of the election silence
The role of Information and Communication Technologies is constantly growing.
Modern technologies find their applications in all aspects of modern human
life, and also as tools for exercising democratic power.
In times of the rapid development of new technologies the democracy also has been
changing. Information and Communication Technologies impact the democratic institu-
tions to a great extent. The evidence for this is the emergence of the term “electronic de-
mocracy” (e-democracy) in political science literature (Hacker, Dijk 2000, p. 19).
E-democracy represents the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs)
and computer mediated communication (CMC) in all kinds of media (e.g. the Internet, in-
teractive broadcasting and digital telephony) for purposes of enhancing political democ-
racy or the participation of citizens in democratic communication.
A number of scholars endorse the view that ICTs such as the Internet, can stimulate
systematic improvement of democracy in young democracies and rapid democratization
in regions of the world where democracy has not been adopted yet (Ferdinand, 2000,
p. 3). What’s more, in developed democracies, parliaments use information and commu-
nication technologies (ICTs) to modernize decision processes and to communicate with
the electorate and the world. Without any doubt one may state that “recently, both devel-
oping and developed countries have promoted the use of ICTs in democratic processes
1This article presents part of the research results published in: M. Musia³-Karg, Cisza wyborcza
w dobie Internetu, “Przegl¹d Sejmowy” 2013, no. 3(116) and M. Musia³-Karg, Cisza wyborcza w in-
ternecie – przyk³ad polskich wyborów parlamentarnych z 2011 r., “Studia Politologiczne” 2013, no. 27.
because they enhance the free flow of information, ideas and knowledge” (Kanyo, 2012,
p. 312). Politicians in many states treat tools of modern technologies as a solutions for im-
proving democracy, decision-making processes and as a panacea for the low participation
rate in popular elections. It seems that the political actors themselves are curious about the
applications of ICT and they have already appreciated benefits of the new techniques that
facilitate their political duties, responsibilities and relations with voters. Additionally,
parliaments, governments and subordinate offices have changed and they are still chang-
ing the way how they function by informing society and communicating with people
through new channels. The reason for this is the fact that the “ICTs have changed the way
information is gathered, stored, processed and disseminated” (Kanyo, 2012, p. 312).
Also, the electorate seems to be taking greater notice of the benefits drawn from the appli-
cation of ICT – particularly during the election campaigns and during the popular votes.
In many contemporary democracies one of the very important aspect of popular votes
is election silence. Election silence, sometimes also called pre-election silence (electoral
silence, campaign silence) is a specific legal time, which usually begins just before the
voting day and ends at the end of voting (Michalak, Sokala, 2010, p. 20). In practice it is
a ban on political campaigning prior to a presidential, parliamentary and local election or
referendum. In many countries it is understood as a restriction of freedom of speech. This
is a reason why election silence is considered unconstitutional in many Western democra-
cies. Election silence is, however, quite common in young democracies. The political agi-
tation in the internet is also forbidden during the election silence. Thus, in the context of
the subject matter of this text, there appears a question relating to the legitimacy of the op-
eration of silence in a situation where on the Internet, e.g. on Polish-language web pages
located on foreign servers, electoral campaigning can be carried out and foreign portals
can announce election surveys results. That is why the main aim of this article is to an-
swer the questions about the sense of election silence in the era of new media (especially
the Internet) and about the violations of election silence in the Internet. To answer the re-
search questions the following methods have been applied: the legal-institutional analysis
that helped to overview the national constitutions and other legal acts, and to see where
and how the elections silence takes effect in legal context. Thanks to comparative ap-
proach the author could notice the similarities and differences in the functioning of the
election silence in various countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In the empirical part
– devoted to the practical dimension of election silence in Poland in the age of the Internet
– the author analyzed fragments of political blogs and websites of information services
and social networks. The aim of such procedure was to present examples and methods of
violations of election silence on the Internet. The motivation to focus on this topic was the
appearance of both: a large number of media reports on political agitation in the Internet
and doubts about the continuing sense of functioning of the election silence. Some exam-
ples from Polish political campaigns will be used in this text.
The essence of election silence is to give voters a peaceful (free from political agita-
tion) conditions to consider and make final decision on elections. Election silence has
100 Magdalena MUSIA£-KARG PP 3 ’13
been introduced in order to help voters in making reasonable choice and allow them for
appropriate, that is quiet, without trying to influence them by individual electoral com-
mittees, conditions to decide on election. Voters should evaluate calmly the political of-
fer, give it a careful consideration, rethink their decision in conditions which are free of
electioneering. The assumption of election silence is to provide a chance for reflection
and deliberation on whom to vote in the election.
The election silence (pre-electoral silence, campaign silence) is a period of time, when
it is prohibited to conduct electioneering. Most of legislations concerning the process of
election establishes “electoral day silence” (only during the voting day). In some countries
of the pre-election silence begins earlier, usually 24 hours before opening the polls
(Wiszowaty, 2012, p. 7). An election silence serves in some countries as a special time
given to allow a “cooling-off” period for voters. As it was emphasized – during this time no
active campaigning is allowed, but usually informing about the opinion polls is also banned.
The silence is generally legally enforced, though in some countries it is just a “gentlemen’s
agreement” between leading parties or a “this is how it has always been done” agreement, be-
tween parties, to guide them in terms of how they can and should campaign (Campaign si-
lence…). The are penalties for breaking the law on election silence, usually a fine.
Indeed, it is very interesting that, due to the phenomenon’s lack of observation in Eng-
lish-speaking countries, there does not exist any phrase commonly used in English to de-
scribe this silence. This device is however used in many of the world’s democracies “in
order to balance out the campaigning and maintain a free voting environment” (Cam-
However, in many countries, the election campaign does not last until the “last mo-
ment”, that is, until the day of voting. Similarly as in Poland, they adopted the solution of
election silence, during which it is prohibited to carry out any agitation in favor of com-
peting political forces (Kryszeñ 2007, p. 185). Election silences are observed in the fol-
lowing countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, Serbia,
Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain (Legislationline.org).
What’s more, in various countries a different period of election silence has been intro-
duced. In Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Russia and Albania – as in Poland – the
election silence starts 24 hours before polling day. In some countries (Czech Republic,
Slovakia, Romania (Kryszeñ 2007, p. 185) the period of election silence was statutorily
extended and begins 48 hours before the vote (Legislationline.org).
It should be noted, that one of the first countries, where election silence was intro-
duced after the world war II, was Germany. The incentive to implement such a solution
was a bad experience at the beginning of the interwar period (Kowalczyk, Gmyz, 2009).
As a result of fact that the prohibition of campaigning just before the vote or on voting
day, can be seen as a violation of freedom of expression, in many Western democracies
regulations regarding election silence are deemed to be unconstitutional.
Summing up, the election silence is functioning with in many so-called young democ-
racies, where the specific limitation of the political debate just before the elections is jus-
tified – it is in fact to prevent the escalation of conflicts between the political actors before
and during the voting. One should remember, that in many countries, the electoral silence
was established by the law (in special legal acts), but in some countries, e.g. in Sweden,
there exists a so-called Gentlemen’s agreement between the main political forces, which
PP 3 ’13 The Election Silence in contemporary democracies. Questions about... 101
commits to conduct their campaigns according to specific standards and to refrain from
campaigning within a certain time before the election (Campaign silence…). Very inter-
esting to note is that due to the lack of practice in election silence in Anglo-Saxon coun-
tries, the term does not exist in English language, at least, it is not commonly used. The
election silence is a completely unknown phenomenon there. According to Mariusz
Zawadzki, “if someone tried to impose election silence in America [...] it would raise
a general alarm, both on the left and on the right wing, that the person is carrying out an at-
tack on the Sacred First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides citizens
with complete freedom of expression” (Zawadzki 2011). Moreover, in 1992 the Supreme
Court in the United States in the case Burson v. Freeman ruled that on the day of voting
the conduct of electioneering is only prohibited in the polling station and within a walking
distance (100 feet) from it (Burson v. Freeman).
Today, when new technologies develop very rapidly and influence on political life,
democracies are prone to different threats related to violating the election silence. It is due
to the fact that the election silence functions also in the Internet – it means that no political
agitation must be conducted in the cyberspace. But in reality different objects try to im-
pact the electorate and agitate for various politicians, despite the ban. Such actions can
not be considered as the official election campaign (because campaigns are run by the
election staffs of the candidate), but one can say that the Internet activity of an election-
eering (led by individuals) is an attempt to breach the electoral silence.
Election silence in Poland – legal dimension
The election silence – similarly to other Central and East European Countries – is also
functioning in Poland. Various forms of prohibition on political agitation were intro-
duced to electoral laws before 1989 and after the turn of the eighties and nineties, for in-
stance in the Act of 7th April 1989 – the Election Law to the Sejm of the Polish People’s
Republic of the 10. term, for the years 1989–1993, there was an Article 26 that prohibited
campaigning at the polling station on Election Day (Ustawa z dnia 7 kwietnia 1989 r.
ordynacja…, article 62).
It needs to be pointed out that since 1st August 2011, a new legal act has been in force
in Poland – Act of 5th January 2011 –The Election Code (Ustawa z dnia 5 stycznia 2011 r.
Kodeks wyborczy…). The law regulates issues related to all types of elections: general
elections (Ustawa z dnia 12 kwietnia 2001 r. – Ordynacja wyborcza do Sejmu…), presi-
dential elections (Ustawa z dnia 27 wrzeœnia 1990 r. o wyborze Prezydenta…), local elec-
tions (Ustawa z dnia 16 lipca 1998 r. – Ordynacja wyborcza do rad gmin…;Ustawa
z dnia 20 czerwca 2002 r. o bezpoœrednim wyborze wójta…) and elections to the Euro-
pean Parliament (Ustawa z dnia 23 stycznia 2004 r. – Ordynacja wyborcza do
Parlamentu…). Previous laws on elections [were repealed in accordance with Article 10
of the Act on enacting provisions of the law – The Election Code (Ustawa z dnia
5 stycznia 2011 r. Przepisy wprowadzaj¹ce …).
In Article 107 of the 2011 Election Code, electoral silence was established. It means
that from the end of the campaign until the end of voting you cannot conduct election
campaigning in forms listed in paragraph 1. In the indicated regulation, the following
102 Magdalena MUSIA£-KARG PP 3 ’13
were prohibited: “the convening of meetings, organizing marches and demonstrations,
making speeches, distributing leaflets, as well as running campaigning for candidates and
lists of candidates in any different way” (Ustawa z dnia 5 stycznia 2011 r. Kodeks
wyborczy…). In the following section it was prohibited to do any form of “campaigning at
the polling station and in the building where this place is” (Ustawa z dnia 5 stycznia
2011 r. Kodeks wyborczy…).
It is worth noting that the Polish legislator drew a distinction between the electoral ag-
itation, and election campaign. The latter is a concept of a broader meaning and describes
a period in which political parties and voters can, with legal effect, do activities related to,
among others: creation of the electoral committees, reporting and registration of candi-
dates, collecting funds for the organization of the electoral agitation, that is, efforts to
convince and persuade the voters to vote for a specific list of voters or for any particular
candidate (Gebethner, 2001).
Thus, electoral agitation, called also “the election battle”, is understood as a promo-
tion of slogans and inciting the electorate to vote for a particular committee or for a partic-
ular person. The Election Code defines the electoral agitation as “public incitement or
encouragement, to vote in a certain way or to vote for a particular election committee can-
didate” (Ustawa z dnia 5 stycznia 2011 r. Kodeks wyborczy…, article 105). It can be led
“from the date of acceptance by a competent authority a notice of the establishment of the
electoral committee on principles, in forms and places, specified by regulations in the
Code”(Ustawa z dnia 5 stycznia 2011 r. Kodeks wyborczy…, article 105).
Arkadiusz ¯ukowski points out, that although the terms “electoral agitation” and
“election campaigns” are of different meanings, they are often regarded as synonyms
(¯ukowski, 2004). Grzegorz Kryszeñ indicates, that these ambiguities regarding defini-
tions of both terms, may cause conflicts of interpretation of these concepts. They can also
cause problems in the application of provisions on compliance with election silence
(Kryszeñ 2007, p. 186).
In Poland, from the end of the election campaign until the closing of polling stations
on a voting day, it is prohibited to run an active electoral agitation. The word “active” at
this point is very important as the above-mentioned ban covers activities specified in Ar-
ticle 107 of the Election Code. Electoral committees and candidates do not, however,
have the obligation to remove from public places all election materials (billboards, post-
ers, leaflets, etc.) on the day prior to the day of voting. It would rather be technically infea-
sible. However, according to the standpoint of National Electoral Commission, after the
election campaign (that is 24 hours before the election day and on the election day) it is
prohibited to move in any vehicle (private or public) with the campaigning materials
placed on it. It is understood as an “active” agitation. The user of such a vehicle is re-
quired to remove the election materials from the vehicle – both from outside and from the
inside. It is worth mentioning that also places of religious cult are included as those,
where agitation is forbidden during the election silence (¯ukowski, 2004, p. 117;
Gebethner, 2001, p. 123).
According to Article 115 of the Election Code during the electoral silence it is forbid-
den to give pre-election polls results on the predicted voting behavior and election results
to the public and the results of election surveys carried out on the voting day (exit polls
(Szreder, 2011). Any person who violates this injunction shall be subject to a fine from
PP 3 ’13 The Election Silence in contemporary democracies. Questions about... 103
500 thousand to 1 million PLN (Ustawa z dnia 5 stycznia 2011 r. Kodeks wyborczy…, ar-
ticle 500). This regulation is mainly due to the fact that pre-election polls published just
before the voting, can significantly influence the final outcome of the election.
The election silence on the Internet – examples from Polish elections
The Internet, as the most important tool of the civilization development in the modern
world (Castells, 2007), contributes to the radical changes in political space. This is evi-
denced, among others by the emergence of concepts such as electronic democracy
(e-democracy) or electronic voting (e-voting). In the context of the subject matter of this
text, that is, the electoral silence, there appears a question relating to the legitimacy of the
operation of silence in a situation where on the Internet, e.g. on Polish-language web
pages located on foreign servers, electoral campaigning can be carried out and foreign
portals can announce election surveys results.
Although such operations may be not an attempt to violate (only to avoid) the election
silence (Cisza wyborcza na portalu…), they are only examples of possibilities of the im-
pact of election information on the attitudes of the electorate and the final outcome of the
vote. In connection with the more and more widespread access to the Internet by Polish
society, it is clear that the voters, provided that, they express this desire, can easily find
the information that should not be published during the election silence. After all, the es-
sence of the election silence is to provide the voter with a quiet decision making, and this
decision should not be burdened with the influence of any publication with election con-
tents. In the era of the Internet, maintaining the election silence seems to be impossible, in
any case, certainly very difficult. It is, therefore, worth paying attention to any cases of
circumvention of the election silence on the websites.
The application of regulations concerning the election silence in the new media, par-
ticularly in the Internet, has been facing great difficulties, especially in recent years re-
lated to the dynamic development of information and communication technologies. One
of the reasons is the constant progress in the field of social communication techniques
which creates innovative, unknown and not-used-before possibilities and methods of in-
fluencing views, attitudes and political behavior of voters. In the case of the Internet it
should be noted that it gives a scope for abuse in the observance of the election silence,
because it is not easy to control by the state bodies the information and expression trans-
mitted and exchanged in the global net, regardless of the time differences and national
boundaries. Thus, directives seeking the observance of the election silence seem to be
useless (Cisza wyborcza na portalu…).
It should be noted here that the Election Code does not have electoral regulations that
would discuss the question of election silence in the broad sense of the new media. The ban
on electioneering and publishing surveys relates to all kinds of media, including online me-
dia, which are treated as the press (Wyjaœnienia Pañstwowej Komisji Wyborczej z dnia
18 czerwca 2010 r…). The National Electoral Commission, however, in one of its docu-
ments published in 2010 provided guidelines on how to keep silence: “The ban of cam-
paigning during the so-called election silence also includes any Internet activity. It means
that even the information which is of agitation nature but was posted online on before mid-
104 Magdalena MUSIA£-KARG PP 3 ’13
night of 18th June 2010 [until the end of the election campaign – M. MK] may stay there.
During the election silence, the only information that can be posted on the Internet is such
which does not have the nature of campaigning for candidates” (Wyjaœnienia Pañstwowej
Komisji Wyborczej z dnia 18 czerwca 2010 r…). This fairly terse wording does not exhaust
the possibility related to operations violating electoral silence. Examples of emerging op-
portunities to circumvent the election silence on the Internet are many.
One of the examples of tempering of the election silence may be placing of posts and
comments on blogs post. Politicians in many countries around the world appreciated this
method of communication with voters and use their blogs to share their views (not only
political ones) and comment on, e.g. current (not only) political events in the country and
the world. Many of them comment on the election campaigns, pre-election polls and the
Polish deputies, similarly to their foreign colleagues more and more frequently make
use of the “virtual” way of reaching to the voters. Ryszard Czarnecki (PiS – Law and Jus-
tice party), for instance, who is a deputy of the European Parliament (MEP), on the day of
the parliamentary elections, that is, October 9th, 2011, posted on his blog an entry entitled
“The election silence – pure nonsense” with the following content: “Because we have
election silence, so not a whisper about the election. Instead of that, I recommend my arti-
cle on ... the absurdity of the functioning of the election silence, which appeared in the last
issue of the weekly ‘Gazeta Polska’. It can be purchased in kiosks and Empik stores even
during the election silence, though it contains both advertisements of the candidates for
the Sejm, as well as interviews with candidates and political articles which are explicitly
of election nature. That shows the absurdity of the election silence” R. Czarnecki’s cited
record should not be regarded as election agitation, but the fact is that the entry became
a reason to make comments on it by the readers of the blog, who during the election si-
lence provided comments on the opinion of the MEP. In one of the comments by
email@example.com it was even suggested that law is broken on Czarnecki’s site
(Comments on the post: Cisza wyborcza – czysty pure nonsens…).
Whereas, it is often difficult to detect if the author runs election propaganda, it is dif-
ferent when it comes to the Internet users’ comments on individual politicians’ posts. On
blog of Leszek Miller, the former Prime Minister of SLD (the Democratic Left Alliance),
the entry dated on September 16th, 2011 “Mniej ni¿ zero (Less Than Zero)” during the pe-
riod of election silence there were comments placed which in an obvious way violated the
silence. Just a minute after the end of the election campaign (8th October at 00:01),
a surfer named “m” encouraged to vote for the SLD party. “Let everybody on this blog
vote for SLD!”, Another Internet user “komuch” on the pre-election Saturday at 12:42
placed a comment: “Although there is election silence, it does not apply to commies. Vote
only for SLD” (Comments on the post: Mniej ni¿ zero…).
The above cases are just examples of election silence violations on weblogs. It is
worth noting, that the blogs’ owners have the possibility to block the posting comments
function, so in order for their sites not to be a place for any kind of political agitation in the
forbidden time, they should block the comment option on their posts for a period of elec-
In this context, it makes sense to pose a question about the enforcement of sanctions
for election silence violations. It should be noted that, while it is relatively easy to catch in
PP 3 ’13 The Election Silence in contemporary democracies. Questions about... 105
the act one or a few people by identifying the IP address of their computers, hypotheti-
cally, if hundreds or thousands of people “got activated” during the election silence typ-
ing comments calling for the vote for a particular list, the attempt to bringing them to
justice would be extremely difficult and lengthy – almost impossible.
Another example of the election silence violation are conversations in chat rooms or
instant messaging such as MSN Messenger or Skype. This is not about online conversa-
tions on political preferences and political choices (even encouragement to vote for any
particular candidate) among friends, it is about sending agitation materials to a broader
group of the Internet users who are not friends. This first activity is not an act of election
silence violation, but the latter has to be considered as violation of the electioneering ban.
Interestingly, while it would be fairly easy to identify and call to account one person, who
would induce to voting for a particular party or candidate, the identification and enforce-
ment of penalties against, for example, several hundred or several thousand Internet us-
ers, perhaps would not be difficult, but definitely time consuming.
It should be remembered that the ban on electioneering is in force throughout the
country, also on Polish websites (on websites owned by citizens of the Republic of Poland
or Polish companies, as well as on Internet portals set on Polish servers). And it is here
(the Internet) where problems appear. Whereas the ban on the forums mentioned above is
obvious and relatively easy to enforce, it is a bit different with the Websites located on
foreign servers. Theoretically, it is possible to upload electioneering content on foreign
websites, however, as Krzysztof Lorenc from the National Electoral Office in Warsaw
points out: when the “[foreign – M. MK] portal is read in Poland, then the election silence
is also in force” (Cisza wyborcza na portalu…).
What’s more election silence in Poland – although it is valid for the Polish mass me-
dia, it does not apply to the foreign media: televisions, radio stations, press ect. That’s
why it is very easy to find there information on the results of recent election polls, on who
is predicted to be a political winner and loser, or on electorate’s preferences. If a voter is
living abroad and has a access to those information, they have undoubtedly impact on his
(or her) attitudes and his (or her) final political choices. Thus, it is reasonable to ask the
question about the meaning of election silence for the Polish people entitled to vote who
during elections in Poland stay abroad and are going to participate in elections. As they
decide on Polish elections – as the rest of the Polish voters – according to the rules – they
should have “quiet” conditions to ponder about a political offer and to make a final elec-
But – as noted – they are a subject to the permanent influence of the information pro-
vided for instance on the Internet – on various portals or news bulletins. It is significant to
present at least some examples of such an impact. On the “Euronews – International
News” site, at 0:33 on 8th October 2011, there was placed a text entitled Election cam-
paign ends in Poland, which provided information on recent pre-election polls, according
to which the leading was the Donald Tusk’s party PO – Civic Platform (35% of the re-
spondents’ votes), followed by Jaros³aw Kaczyñski’s PiS – the Law and Justice – with
a 27-percent support, and the third in the ranking Ruch Palikota (Palikot’s Movement)
with 12.5% of the vote (Election campaign ends in Poland…). On the same day, on the
pre-election Saturday at 16:44, on the same site there appeared an article: Polish Voters
get a pre-election campaign break copying the survey results from the previous text, but
106 Magdalena MUSIA£-KARG PP 3 ’13
also explaining the nature of election silence, and stating that 20% of Polish electorate is
still undecided as to their decisions (Polish voters get a pre-election …).
On the German information daily website tagesschau.de, dating October 9th, at 0:07
Ludgar Kazimierczak published an article: Premier Tusk rechnet sich gute Chancen aus,
in which the journalist noted, that according to TNS OBOP surveys, Liberals have 10%
lead over the Conservatives (Premier Tusk rechnet sich gute…).
Since in many countries of Europe and the whole world the Polish voters have per-
manent access to election information that constantly appear on the online forums
(even during the election silence) it is worth having reflection on the purpose and the
meaning of election silence. Voters who reside outside the country and intend to vote
abroad (but also those who are in Poland and browse foreign websites), cannot fully
experience the election silence, the aim of which is to provide reflection on whom to
vote in elections.
It is worth recalling a few more examples of election silence violations, which can be
found in social media, which especially in recent years have gained widespread popularity.
Examples drawn from the activity of the social media are so interesting, because people make
use of them at a convenient time, at different times of day and week, hence the maintenance of
election silence may be particularly difficult in this environment (Zaj¹c, Batorski, 2011,
p. 69). Also the conduct of the election campaign is very difficult to control there.
Although, most of the major internet portals instructed their users on what was not
permitted during the election silence, still, as Milada Jêdrysik writes, “witty and inge-
nious Pole can manage without much of a problem.” Having prohibited publishing opin-
ion polls, it was invented, that their results would be hidden in the form of ingredients in
the recipe for donuts or written in a vegetable code (Jêdrysik, 2011). Twitter users ex-
changed information on results of surveys conducted by OBOP encrypting them as prices
per kilos of vegetables (“POry po 32 z³, a PIStacje po 30”, czyli…; ¯arty z ciszy
wyborczej w internecie…).
It should be noted that social media play an increasingly important role as a tool of po-
litical communication. In particular, the election campaign conducted in the social media
places responsibility on election staff for monitoring the content posted by visitors to the
profile of the candidate, and above all, for the observance of election silence by support-
ers or opponents. Furthermore, “the mixed private-public nature of the social media space
makes it difficult to assess whether an individual user’s behavior can be classified as a vi-
olation of election silence” (Zaj¹c, Batorski, 2011, pp. 71–72).
The Internet as a very important channel of political communication today, is used for
purposes of agitation, not only by election committees and candidates, but also by voters
themselves and what is more, not only during the campaign itself, but also during the
It is difficult to talk about election silence on the Internet, because it is the media that is
virtually impossible to control. The examples used in this article showed that “tradi-
tional” rules of campaigning, used for television, radio, or direct campaign cannot be im-
PP 3 ’13 The Election Silence in contemporary democracies. Questions about... 107
posed on the Internet. Therefore, the question relating to the meaning of election silence
in the time of new media seems to be even more essential.
The arguments supporting the functioning of pre-election silence as a time to reflect in
order to make a possibly most objective decision, become less meaningful, since, regard-
less of the legal restrictions campaign lasts permanently on the Internet (though much less
intensely than during the campaign).
Also punishing Internet users for violating election silence seems to be very problem-
atic. While it is fairly easy to identify individuals who violate electioneering ban just be-
fore the election or on election day, it would be more problematic (and definitely long
lasting) to punish a bigger number of people. Assuming hypothetically that several thou-
sand students from a university or a group of several thousand voters from a municipality
lead discussions on support for individual candidates during election silence on the se-
lected online forum or social network and simultaneously encourage to voting for their
favorites, there appears a problem in enforcing penalties for undeniable violations of
One can take action against those few thousand people (identifying their computers),
but it would be virtually impossible to identify Internet users who would use computers in
so-called Internet cafes. A situation in which Internet users from abroad would conduct
election agitation on the web, would be also complicated.
Both information which promotes election committees and surveys are always within
the Internet users’ reach. Access to this information is permanent: regardless of whether
the survey was published two days before election silence, the day before election silence
or a minute before the end of election campaign. As for information on foreign sites, situ-
ation is similar; in most cases they provide information about past election polls even on
election day, recalling who according to them has a chance of electoral victory.
Thus, answering the question on the usefulness of election silence and validity of its
operation, one must admit that, on one hand it can be a useful solution from the voters’
perspective, for allowing, in accordance with the idea, a peaceful electoral decision. On
the other hand, it should be noted that election Sundays in Poland are quite boring, so vot-
ers often are not interested in what is happening in the country, they often forget to vote. It
may be due to de lack of political information – that is campaign, which is the result of the
In the face of the rapid development of the ICT – particularly – the Internet, the issue
of election silence can be one of those problems that in the coming years will require clar-
ifying and adjusting to the existing realities. It seems that there is a great need that The
politicians should rethink the rational argumentation about positive and negative effects
of election silence, and above all, realize the extent to which it does not make sense today.
This could motivate them to change the provisions (or part of them) relating to the func-
tioning of election silence, which is difficult to maintain primarily on the Internet.
Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191 (1992) – Charles W. Burson, Attorney General and Reporter for Ten-
nessee, Petitioner v. Mary Rebecca Freeman Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Tennessee,
108 Magdalena MUSIA£-KARG PP 3 ’13
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Premier Tusk rechnet sich gute Chancen aus, 9.10.2011, Tagesschau.de, http://www.tagesschau.de/
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Cisza wyborcza we wspó³czesnych demokracjach.
Pytania o zasadnoœæ funkcjonowania ciszy wyborczej w dobie Internetu
Technologie komunikacyjne i informacyjne w znacznym stopniu wp³ywaj¹ na instytucje i procedu-
ry demokratyczne. Jednym z przyk³adów takiego wp³ywu ICT jest cisza wyborcza, która ma na celu
umo¿liwiæ wyborcom spokojne i wolne agitacji politycznej warunki do podjêcia ostatecznej decyzji co
do sposobu g³osowania. Pomimo zakazu agitowania w czasie ciszy wyborczej wielu u¿ytkowników In-
ternetu prowadzi kampaniê na rzecz konkretnych polityków czy ugrupowañ politycznych, naruszaj¹c
obowi¹zuj¹ce prawo. G³ównym celem niniejszego tekstu jest odpowiedŸ na pytanie o sposoby narusza-
nia ciszy wyborczej w Internecie oraz o zasadnoœæ funkcjonowania tego mechanizmu w dobie Internetu.
Motywacj¹ do skoncentrowania siê na tym problemie by³o m.in. pojawienie siê du¿ej liczby raportów na
temat ³amania ciszy wyborczej w Internecie, a w konsekwencji pojawienie siê wielu w¹tpliwoœci co do
utrzymania tego mechanizmu w demokracji.
S³owa kluczowe: cisza wyborcza, Internet, agitacja, kampania, naruszenie ciszy wyborczej
110 Magdalena MUSIA£-KARG PP 3 ’13