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EC approves RPO amendments for EVM use in national polls

  • Published at 12:17 pm August 30th, 2018
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda addressing a press briefing at the commission office in Dhaka's Agargaon on Thursday, August 30, 2018 Dhaka Tribune

However, one of the election commissioners has opposed the decision

The Election Commission has decided to amend the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972 in order to use electronic voting machines (EVM) in the upcoming 11th national election.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda made the announcement at a press briefing at the commission office in Dhaka’s Agargaon after a meeting yesterday.

“Most of us have agreed to amend the RPO. The amended RPO will be sent to the Law Ministry for further vetting soon. After the ministry’s approval, it will be tabled in parliament for passage,” he said.

He added: “It’s not certain that we will use the EVMs. But, we want to stay preparedto use them if there is favourable atmosphere before the polls.”

However, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukderopposed the decision and had walked out of the meeting half an hour after it started around 11am yesterday. The meeting ended around 5pm.

He also sent a note of dissent through an officer later, which read: “I believe EVMs can be used gradually in the local elections but I do not support the initiative to amend the RPO to use the EVMs in the 11th general election. I am issuing the note of dissent to differ with the decision of the commission.”

“This is his personal opinion. He is allowed to have a different opinion,”CEC Huda said regarding Mahbub’s stance.

The commission has already announced that it plans to hold the next parliamentary election in the last week of December.

Also Read- BNP, left parties against using EVMs in national polls, AL neutral

Since their introduction in 2010, the EVMs have so far been used in different local government elections only.

Ruling Awami League is in favour of using EVMs in the national polls, through amendment of the RPO, but BNP and left-leaning political parties have always opposed the idea, expressing concern that the machines could be used to rig the election.

The CEC said they had received many recommendations regarding RPO amendment, but the EVM issue was priority.

Justifying their stance, he said: “We have successfully used EVMs in local government polls. We will make a final decision and prepare once the scope to use them in the parliamentary election is created following necessary amendments to the law.”

Since their introduction in 2010, the EVMs have so far been used in different local government elections only | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

‘I can’t sit like a statue’

Talking to reporters at his office in the eveningyesterday, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdersaid: “I am not in favour of amending the RPO and using EVMs in the parliamentary polls because we are not prepared for that. Most of the political parties are against that idea too.

“The training (our officials have) received so far is inadequate. I feel that we do not have enough time to fully prepare to use EVMs in the national election.”

“EVM was also added into our work plan suddenly. If we take this path, EVMs will never be successful. Besides, voters are not interested in exercising their franchise using EVMs,” he added.

Mahbub said: “It’s impossible that they (CEC and other election commissioners) will amend the RPO and I will sit there like a statue. That’s why I left. I was in the meeting but I had no scope to speak there.”

Before leaving the meeting,he had also questioned the commission’s move to procure EVMs meant to be used in the upcoming polls.

The commission has already started a Tk38 billion project to procure 150,000 EVMs, with Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) tasked to supply the machines.

With the national election nearly four months away, the Election Commission has drawn up plans to use these EVMs at the polling centres in one-third of the country’s 300 constituencies, a move that was immediately criticized by different quarters, including political parties.

On Wednesday, BNP and Left Democratic Alliance had urged the commission to ditch its plan, alleging the machines would be used for vote-rigging and to ensure the ruling party’s victory.

Mahbub Talukder, however, said: “I have a different opinion. I’m not against anyone. I will not protest the CEC’s remarks, but I also do not believe in blindly supporting others’ opinions. There is always difference in opinion in democracy.”

Expressing regret, he said: “We are not keeping our promises... We had said that EVMs will not be used (in the national polls) if all parties do not agree. Our road map (to the polls) also does not include EVMs.”

If the RPO is amended and passed in parliament, the commission will have to sit again to take the final decision on the EVM use, he added.

Last year, the commission had held dialogues with 39 political parties, 23 of which gave their opinion on the use of EVMs in the national polls. Twelve parties, including the BNP,had directly opposed the idea.

Juktofront: EC’s move suspicious

Juktofront, a coalition of several minor political parties, yesterday also questioned the commission’s hurry in buying more EVMs spending a huge amount of money.

In a press statement, the alliance’s Chairman AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury and other leaders called for shelving the plan to use EVMs in the national polls.

They said when many countries around the world have already ditched EVMs as they could be easily manipulated to rig votes, the Election Commission’s hurry in buying the machines were appearing suspicious.

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