Electronic voting unlikely in Bangladesh’s next polls

Electronic voting unlikely in Bangladesh’s next polls

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Muhammad Syfullah, UNB Staff Writer
Dhaka, Jun 5 – The Election Commission (EC) is highly unlikely to go for digital voting in the next national election as the two major political parties — Awami League and BNP — are now at loggerheads over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs).EC officials said the Commission will require some 3 lakh EVMs to arrange the election, likely to be held in late December 2018 or early January 2019, fully based on the machines instead of ballot papers.
Besides, they said, it will not get enough time for introducing the machines before the election schedule, which may be announced in November 2018.
EC officials said it will be almost impossible to hold the 11th national election using EVMs as the EC will have just one year in hand to collect, assess and demonstrate 3 lakh EVMs after taking the final decision following the outcomes of EC’s dialogues with political parties and other stakeholders.
The dialogue is scheduled to begin in July and end in November next.
Besides, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda has repeatedly said they will not use EVMs in the election unless political parties reach a consensus on it.
But the possibility of a political consensus on the issue is very thin as BNP has formally written to the CEC opposing any move to introduce the EVMs in the national election.
EC officials said the Commission has brought the issue to limelight so that it can use the EVMs at least in local body elections to avoid vote rigging and other irregularities.
“Some 3 lakh EVMs or Digital Voting Machines (DVMs) will be required to arrange the balloting in 40,000 possible polling stations across the country in the national election,” said EC Additional Secretary Md Mokhlesur Rahman.
Noting that the EC wants to go for EVMs to avoid illegal ballot stuffing and other irregularities, he said if the EVM use in the national election does not get support of the political parties, these might be used in local body elections.
To use EVMs in the national election, the EC will first have to amend the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972 as there is no provision of using such machines in the election.
In January last, Awami League at its dialogue with President Abdul Hamid over the EC reconstitution proposed introducing e-voting in the next general election.
On May 13 last, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader again said their political stance is in favour of using EVMs in the next national election, claiming that it is a modern system where there is no possibility of errors.
He noted that Prime Minister’s ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy proposed the EVM system for the next election and his party extended support to his proposal.
Meanwhile, BNP leaders have been opposing the EVMs claiming that the move to introduce the machines is motivated and the machines can be tempered.
On May 22 last, a BNP delegation, led by its standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan, handed over a letter to the CEC urging him not to use EVMs in the national election.
Talking to reporters after the meeting with the CEC, Nazrul said their party thinks there might have any evil intention behind the move and there is also apprehension of digital vote rigging if the EVM is used.
Earlier on May 11, CEC Nurul Huda said the EVMs would be used in the next parliamentary polls if all the political parties unanimously accept it.
The CEC on May 23 last reiterated that they would not impose the EVMs in the next general election. “If political parties have no confidence in it and they don’t accept it, we won’t go for it… We won’t take risk. It’s a clear message. There’s no doubt or controversy here,” he said.
Huda, however, said they will place the EVM process in the dialogues to seek opinions from the registered political parties and other stakeholders.
The CEC also said the EVM issue was not incorporated in the draft roadmap for the 11th national election.
The Dr ATM Shamsul Huda-led EC first used EVMs on pilot basis in a few polling stations in Chittagong City Corporation polls held in 2010. Later, the EVMs were used partially in different local elections.
In January, 2011, Comilla City Corporation election was fully held with EVMs.
But technical errors appeared with a few EVMs during the Comilla city election, Narsingdi municipality by-polls (2012) and Rajshahi city election (2013). However, EC faced no major complexity in declaring election results due to big margins of difference in those elections.
In 2012, the Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad-led Commission decided not to use EVMs in the 10th national election due to the technical errors and strong oppositions from BNP and like-minded parties.

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