EVM debate should not detract election from other issues of fair election

EVM debate should not detract election from other issues of fair election

Faruque Ahmed        Weekly Holiday      7 September 2018

The sudden move of the Election Commission (EC) to amend the RPO (Representation of People’s Order) to pave the way for use of EVM in the forthcoming parliamentary election has caused many question and misgivings in the political circle.

On August 30 the EC has taken the decision in a hastily arranged meeting of the commission for six long hours together which saw heated exchange from at least one commissioner who opposed the move and finally walked out of the meeting.

Chaired by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda the move easily passed with support from other commissioners. It also passed a project proposal to buy 1.5 lakh EVM machine reportedly at a cost of Tk 4,000 crore just four months ahead of the election scheduled for December this year.

The lone descanting commissioner Mahbub Talukdar in his descanting note later justified his opposition to the move on the ground that the present ‘conflicting political situation’ does not support it as all opposition parties are opposed to the use of EVM in the polls in the first place.

And secondly, time is too short to procure so many voting machine and train the manpower to operate them in the polling centers. Like many others he also raised the question as to what is the justification of such huge procurement at the huge cost of public money.

The biggest uncertainty to election is whether an inclusive election will be held with participation of the opposition parties. Until the controversy over the fate of the election time government is resolved all such preparations are meaningless and on top of it spending big money on EVM may only help vested business quarter to make fortune.

During the EC’s dialogue with BNP and other opposition parties in October last year they made their position amply known against the use of EVM in election saying ballot papers are easy to voters while people have no confidence in the EVM as they can be easily hacked to change results.

Even now the opposition parties are agitating almost every day and holding public discussions and debates to oppose the move and many believe the CEC in this situation is trying to unilaterally impose EVM in the polls. He initially pans to use it in at least 100 constituencies.

This is one scenario. On the other hand, he told reporters after the EC’s meeting that the final decision on the use of EVM has not yet been made but to take the initial preparation for its use if it is so required they have taken the decision to amend the RPO. They have also sent the proposed to the law ministry for vetting.
By procuring they want to keep EVM stock ready although the decision for its use in all counts is likely to come from the government. Many believe every such move is confusing and escalating new criticism on the role of the EC. In their view the government is pushing the EC to take such moves which appears powerless to exercise its free authority.

Reacting on the EC’s move BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamir has termed it as conspiratorial saying the government wants to win election this time using the EVM instead of based on people’s voting.

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Qader has on the other hand has welcomed the EC’s move saying polling will be hassle free and take less time to end counting. In his view BNP is opposed to it because it can’t be able to rig election.

Gonoforum president Dr Kamal Hussain, Bikalpa Dhara President AQM Badrudduza Chowdhury, Convener of Nakorik Oikya Mahmudur Rahman Manna, JSD President ASM Rob – all of them have joined hands recently in a new political platform called Jokta Front have also sharply reacted against the hasty move calling it suspicious.

Even some smaller partners of the Awami led 14 party alliance have voiced skeptical on the move for use of EVM saying it can’t be rushed and be given time. Like many others they are of the view that it may be increasingly used in local body elections to familiarize voters with the use of the machine.

Many wondered when election in a country like the USA was hacked forcing it to abandon the use of electronic system and when Holland has abandoned EVM for lack of reliability why our EC is going to use it is the big question. Opposition parties in India are also united to the government move to use EVM but our EC is pushing the move.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week said there is no room for hasty decision on use of EVM but it can be used in limited case to pave the way of electronic voting. Media report also quoted CEC Nurul Huda as saying its use will depend on the opinion of all parties. It may be however used experimentally in some cases.
It is confusing in one case they are talking of limited use but the CEC in other case is also talking about its use in at least 100 constituencies in the coming election. Many have also raised question how the 00 seats will be selected; what will be the criteria of selecting the seats, who will benefit from the use of the tools and whether the decision will come based on who are taking part in the election and who are not.

Many believe the EC must work to win confidence of the nation to give a free and fair election instead of entangling it in such big controversies. The EC must try to shore up its lost image. Holding a neutral election is all about that the nation wants instead of spending big budget from public money to give another tainted election to the nation.

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