August 22, 2022
DHAKA – The Election Commission is going to use electronic voting machines in the next parliamentary polls when almost all major opposition political parties are dead set against it.
The commission will finalise by this month the number of constituencies where EVMs will be in place for the general election, likely to be held in late December 2023 or early January 2024.
“EVMs will be used in the polls,” Election Commissioner Md Alamgir told reporters yesterday.
“However, it has not yet been decided how many parliamentary constituencies will go for voting through EVMs. We will take the decision by the end of this month and you will know it in the first week of September.”
He further said they would fix the number of constituencies where voting will be held through EVMs after assessing the capacity of the commission. Currently, they have the capacity to go for voting with EVMs in 70 to 80 constituencies.
EVMs have been used in about 700 elections so far — including voting in six constituencies during the 2018 election, by-elections and local government polls — but none had raised questions or challenged them, he claimed.
The EVM issue came to the fore especially after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at an AL meeting on May 7 said voting machines would be used in all 300 constituencies in the next national election.
The BNP and its allies have long been opposing EVM use in polls, saying the devices would allow the ruling party to “steal votes”.
Recently, 19 out of 39 registered political parties have directly opposed the use of EVMs, either joining or skipping talks with the EC. Among them are the AL’s archrival BNP and the main opposition in parliament, the Jatiya Party.
Twenty-eight political parties took part in talks, held on July 17-31, and 10 of them told the commission that they were against the use of EVMs. Nine parties, including the BNP and CPB, who abstained in the talks, also don’t want EVMs.
Two parties sought rescheduling of the talks citing different reasons.
Only three — the ruling Awami League, Samyabadi Dal and Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh — during the dialogue categorically said they wanted the machines in the next Jatiya Sangsad election.
Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, a member of AL-led 14-party alliance, suggested that the commission use the machine in 150 constituencies.
Twelve political parties, including JSD-Inu and the Workers Party, opined for using EVMs on certain conditions.
The Workers Party recommended adding voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) to the machines while the JSD (Inu) suggested making the machines technically flawless.
Two political parties did not clear their stance on this issue.
The EC also held a series of views-exchange meetings on EVM in June with 28 political parties. Only four of them, including the AL, said they were in favour of EVMs in national elections.
Asked whether the EC is taking the decision to use EVM following the demand of a certain political party, Alamgir said they never make decisions based on anyone’s demand. “We take a decision considering our capacity and benefits of EVMs to conduct a free election.”
About the opposition from big political parties like the BNP and the Jatiya Party, Alamgir said he was not sure why these parties were against EVM.
“There might be a political strategy. And the BNP did not join our talks. They did not even give evidence in favour of their claim that voting can be rigged through EVM. We urge them to provide evidence.”