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Dhaka city polls: EVM takes centre stage

  • Published at 06:48 pm December 25th, 2019
GCC polls EVM machine 001.jpeg
File photo: A voter's identity is being checked before she casts her ballot using a electronic voting machine (EVM) at a polling centre during the Gazipur city polls on July 27 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

'The EVM is braving various challenges'

With the elections to Dhaka's two city corporations scheduled for January 30, the Election Commission’s decision to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) at all voting centres has created a rift among political parties, while electoral experts have expressed reservations.

Though ruling Awami League is in favour of the idea, its major political rival BNP has always been opposing it, saying EVMs will lead to vote rigging.

Under these circumstances, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday said that they would only use EVMs if they were acceptable by all.

“The EVM is braving various challenges. There’s no inconvenience in operating EVMs. People can exercise their franchise successfully using this,” he said, while addressing the inaugural ceremony of a training program for returning and assistant returning officers for the Dhaka North and Dhaka South city corporation elections.

EVMs were first used during the Chittagong city polls in June 2010. But, from 2015, the commission stopped using EVMs due to some errors. They were, however, later reintroduced during the Rangpur city polls in 2016.

In the last general election held on December 30, the Election Commission had used EVMs in six constituencies, where only 51.41% votes were cast.

The CEC said they have continued to use EVMs because of positive results.

However, BNP said that the use of EVMs will not help reflect the mandate of the electorate.

The party’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters yesterday: “We have clearly said no election can be held fairly under this Election Commission and the government, and the people’s mandate will not be reflected in the polls.”

He claimed that EVMs were a completely faulty system. “We reject it because we believe the people’s verdict won’t be reflected if EVMs are used.”

Disagreeing with his remarks, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader alleged that BNP was spreading propaganda over EVM use during the upcoming city polls.

“Most of the statements run by BNP on EVMs are not correct because the election can be fair using the latest technology. In most of the centres where votes were cast using EVMs, BNP won,” he claimed.

Experts concerned

Meanwhile, talking to Dhaka Tribune yesterday, electoral experts expressed concern about using only EVMs during Dhaka's mayoral elections. 

The use of EVMs will generate lack of confidence in election procedures because people do not have confidence in casting their votes through machines, said Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder. 

“It will be suicidal,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to inform parties about the neutrality and credibility of EVM, but unfortunately this has not happened.” 

If there was no way to examine the machines or check their trail after the elections, then it would be impossible to check if the votes cast were authentic or not, he said. 

“People do not have confidence in the current Election Commission because of widespread inconsistencies in elections held under their tenure. The decision to use EVMs will make the election questionable,” Badiul added. 

Former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said the commission should have been able to teach people the proper use of EVMs by this time, but it has failed. 

“A massive campaign on the use of EVMs via mass media and public demonstrations is immediately required,” he said. 

Sakhawat said EVMs cannot make a difference when votes are rigged.

“When polling centres are occupied, as we have seen in the latest elections, selective votes will be cast, even if it is using EVMs. So the major challenge for the Election Commission is to prevent anyone from occupying any centre and to suspend voting if any irregularity happens,” he said.

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