Bhubaneswar, January 11: The State Election Commission (SEC) of Odisha on Tuesday announced the schedule for the three-tier panchayat elections that will be held in five phases starting from February 16.

The panchayat polls will be held with one day gap between each phase on February 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24.

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The poll panel has fixed polling hours from 7 am to 1 pm. As many as 2,79,35,520 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to elect 91,913 ward members, 6,794 sarpanches, 6,793 panchayat samiti members and 853 Zilla Parishad members.

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In view of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the poll panel also issued guidelines prohibiting roadshows, Padayatraa, cycle/bike/vehicle rally or processions.

No physical rally of political parties or probable candidates or any other group related to the election shall be allowed, the Commission has said.

Political parties and candidates have been advised to conduct their campaign as much as possible through digital/virtual/media platforms/mobile-based mode instead of physical mode ensuring strict compliance with CVOID safety norms.

For the door-to-door campaign, a maximum of five persons including the candidate have been allowed.

After the deceleration of results, there is a ban on victory processions. The Commission said that if a candidate or political party violates COVID-19 guidelines, they are liable for prosecution under Section 51 of 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

All staff working at the polling booths have been directed to be fully vaccinated and only those persons who have fully vaccinated and possess a negative RT-PCR or rapid antigen test report will be allowed into the counting centres. The counting of votes will be done on February 26, 27 and 28.

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