BNP restate opposition to use of electronic vote machines after four cities and a district town chosen at random
The Election Commission ended weeks of uncertainty Monday by finally deciding on the six constituencies where electronic voting machines (EVM) will be used in the upcoming general election.
The machines will be employed in Dhaka 6 and 13, Chittagong 9, Rangpur 3, Khulna 2, and Satkhira 2.
The six constituencies were chosen out of 48 through an open lottery in the presence of journalists at the commission office in the capital’s Agargaon at around 5pm on Monday.
“We have fully prepared to use EVMs in the upcoming general election,” EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said after the lottery.
Since their introduction in 2010, EVMs have only been used in local government elections and at a few polling stations during the recent mayoral elections in Gazipur, Khulna and Barisal cities on a test basis.
While the ruling Awami League has always been in favour of their wider rollout in the general polls, the main opposition BNP together with the Jatiya Oikya Front and many other political parties remain opposed, claiming they can be manipulated in favour of the ruling party.
BNP even petitioned the EC against their employment as late as Monday in an 11th-hour bid to have the plan ditched.
Use of the EVMs in the general polls became a reality after the Election Commission amended the Representation of the People Order (RPO) in September.
The proposed amendments were later cleared by the Cabinet and promulgated into an ordinance by President Md Abdul Hamid at the end of October.
Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam at that time had said that the law would give the commission authority to introduce the EVMs’ system, approve their format and software, and take safety measures for them – in order to allay people's fear over their security features.
On Saturday, the commission decided to use EVMs in every polling station in just six of the 300 parliamentary seats across the country.
The commission has already started a Tk3,825.34-crore project to procure 150,000 EVMs for use in the election, after receiving the green light from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council in September.
“We currently have 20,000 EVMs (and) will start testing these EVMs after a few days,” the commission’s NID Wing Director General Brig Gen Md Saidul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune.
Polling officers are currently receiving training from the Election Commission to operate EVMs during the polls.
The commission secretary earlier this month also said that army would be deployed at the voting centres where EVMs will be used to provide technical support and ensure security of the voters.
Army officers would also receive training as they would be in charge of operating the EVMs during the polls, commission officials said.