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All elections follow a statutory timetable. The timetable states when important events must happen, such as the publication of a notice that an election has been called, when nominations can be submitted, and when polling day is.

The timetables for UK Parliament elections and by-elections are triggered by the issue of writs. The writs tell the relevant returning officer to hold an election to return an MP. The timetables for other elections and by-elections operate differently and this note only considers those for the UK Parliament.

The timetable for a general election is set at 25 working days. General elections are traditionally held on a Thursday, but there is no legal requirement for this to be the case.

For a general election, the dissolution of Parliament and the issue of the writs are timed so that they happen on a day that will cause polling day to be on a Thursday. Other elections are required to be held on a Thursday and their election timetables operate to allow for this. For example, local elections in Great Britain must be held on the first Thursday in May in the relevant year.

The timetable for parliamentary by-elections is set at 21 to 27 working days. This is designed to allow the poll to be held on a Thursday, whenever the writ is moved.

The returning officer is responsible for determining and implementing the by-election timetable.

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