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PM in favour of limited use of EVMs during election

  • Published at 06:18 pm September 2nd, 2018
File photo of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Focus Bangla

BNP has claimed the ruling party wants EVM to rig the polls

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her support for using electronic voting machines (EVM) in the upcoming 11th national election.

The Election Commission recently made the decision to amend the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972, in order to use EVMs in the upcoming national election- despite reservations from many political parties, including out of parliament opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Building a Digital Bangladesh is her government's vision, Hasina said, and the introduction of a new technology such as EVMs acts as an integral part of it.

However, she does not want a hurried use of EVMs without testing it further, the prime minister said while briefing media about the outcomes of her two-day visit to Nepal on August 30 to attend the 4th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) summit, at her official residence Ganabhaban on Sunday.

"EVM based elections are being held in many countries," she said. "I was always in favour of it, and I still support the idea."

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But there will be no hasty implementation of EVM use, as the success of EVMs depends upon practice, she said.

Hasina said the Awami League government has introduced a lot of measures, including transparent ballot boxes, to ensure the election is held in a transparent manner.

Expressing her opinions regarding BNP's reservations over the use of EVMs, the prime minister said BNP is complaining about EVMs because they will have lesser chances of manipulating the election results if EVMs are used.

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"BNP is capable of using many techniques to rig elections, but they know it will be impossible if EVMs are used, and that is why they are so agitated," she said at the press briefing.

The prime minister assured that if any cases of system loss occur because of EVM usage, EVMs will be scrapped.

Earlier on Friday, BNP turned down the Election Commission's decision to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming national election, saying such machines can easily be manipulated.

At a program arranged at the Jatiya Press Club, senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed claimed that the move to procure EVMs was taken to indulge in corruption and plunder public money.

He referred to Bangladesh Bank's reserve heist, raising the question of how the public would keep confidence in the electronic voting system in a country where the central bank's reserve had been plundered through hacking.

Moudud alleged that the government is behind the EC's decision, and claimed of "a big conspiracy behind the move to use the machines for registering votes just three months ahead of the parliamentary polls".

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Other BNP leaders, such as Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi also opposed the EC's decision, saying EVMs were magic boxes of vote rigging.

Rizvi said the masses, with their united efforts, will foil the government's “evil plans” to manipulate the next election.

On August 29, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda made the announcement to amend the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972 in order to use EVMs in the upcoming 11th national election.

Huda said the Election Commission is still unsure whether EVMs will be used or not, but they are prepared to use them at the presence of a favourable atmosphere before the election.

However, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder opposed the decision. He sent a note of dissent, saying that while he was in favour of gradual use of EVMs in local elections, he did not support the initiative to amend the RPO to use the EVMs in the 11th general election.

Mahbub said the training Election Commission officers had received would prove to be inadequate, and there was not enough time to fully prepare for the use of EVMs during the national polls.

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

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

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.