Amid criticism from major political parties, electronic voting machine (EVM) may be used in the next parliamentary elections on a ‘limited scale’ as the government is likely to clear the project next week.
“EVM may me introduced on a limited scale in the upcoming national elections. However, the Election Commission (EC) will take a final decision regarding this,” Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told reporters at a press briefing following an Ecnec meeting in the capital on Tuesday.“A project proposal of the Election Commission with regard to procuring EVMs has reached the planning commission, which we’re going to table at the next Ecnec meeting for approval,” he added.
In a latest development, a project evaluation committee (PEC) meeting of the socio-economic infrastructure division of planning commission was held on the Tk 3,821 crore EVM project on Tuesday afternoon, the commission sources said.
The meeting decided to place the project at the next Ecnec meeting with preliminary approval of the planning minister.
In a sudden move, the EC sent the project proposal to the planning commission on August 16 this year, to procure 1.5 lakh EVMs with intent to utilise it in the next general election.
The EC’s move drew huge flak from other major political parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which boycotted the last general election and is expected to take part the next parliamentary polls.
They harshly criticised the EC and expressed fear that there might be ill motive behind the move to rig votes in favour of the ruling Awami Legue-led grand alliance government.The Planning Commission was supposed to sit on the project on August 19 to make it prepared for Ecnec approval. However, it finally scrapped the PEC meeting then.
Both the election commission and the government on several occasions said that next general election might be held sometime in December this year.
In reply to a question whether it is possible to take necessary preparations for using EVM in the next polls, Kamal said, “It is EC’s authority to use or not to use EVMs in the upcoming polls. Our duty is to approve the project.”
However, he said, “EVM is now being used in many countries of the world, including our neighbouring country. In the age of information and communication technology, we’ve to use it someday.”
In reply to another question whether it is necessary to carry out any feasibility study prior to introducing EVM in national election, the planning minister said it is not necessary because no problem was found while EVM was used in recent city corporation polls on experimental basis.
He also informed that Representation of the People Order (RPO) is being amended, clearing the way for using EVM in national election.
The Planning Commission sources said the project has not been placed in the current fiscal’s ADP book. However, it won’t face any problem to be placed at Ecnec meeting as it got approval from the planning minister.
Out of the estimated project cost, Tk 3,515.61 crore has been allocated for procuring 1.5 lakh EVMs in the EC project proposal. It means that each unit of EVM will cost nearly Tk 2 lakh.
Kamal informed that money won’t matter for the big-budget project because resources will be allocated against the scheme on yearly basis as it will end by June 2023.
With the move, the EC said in its proposal that it wants to make national election free of any faults, transparent and modern technology driven.
The EC also argued that it has to face immense problems in the total process of holding polls in terms of sending election materials and ballot papers to the voting centres across the country.
The present voting process is also put in question by the contestants frequently because of incidences of snatching of ballot papers and boxes in different voting centres, it also argued.
EVM for the first time was used in Chittagong city corporation polls in 2011. Later, it was used in Comilla city polls and municipality polls in Tangail and Narsingdi. But it was not used in Rajshahi city polls after EVMs encounter some problems.
Recently, Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) developed a modern EVM taking into account the machines’ previous faults in line with suggestions from a technical committee headed by Prof Dr Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, according to project document.
New EVM has already been used in Rangpur city elections last year, the EC said, claiming that each EVM took only one-minute time to calculate cast votes.