The Election Commission has announced that due to budget constraints, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will not be utilized in any of the 300 constituencies during the upcoming parliamentary election. Instead, ballot papers will be used for voting in all 300 seats. According to Election Commission Secretariat Secretary Jahangir Alam, the decision was made during a meeting of the Election Commission (EC) on Monday, April 3rd. The meeting was chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal.
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With its current capacity Election Commission can only held elections in only 70 to 75 constituencies with EVM. In October last year, Election Commission submitted a project proposal to hold election in all 300 constituencies with EVM.
Mr. Alam also announced schedule for five city corporation elections to be held this year.
Why the sudden change of plan?
The Election Commission (EC) proposed a project worth Tk8,711 crore to the Planning Commission on October 19th, to purchase around 200,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for use in 150 constituencies during the 12th parliamentary election. However, the project was later rejected due to budget constraints.
Earlier, on September 6th, 39 prominent citizens had urged the EC to reconsider the decision to use EVMs in the national election, citing concerns about the cost and the ongoing economic crisis.
“The action plan of the EC called for the use of EVMs in a maximum of 150 seats. But about 1,260 crore takas are required for EVM repair. That money was sought from the Ministry of Finance. But the Finance Ministry has expressed its inability to pay this amount. The Election Commission does not have the funds to repair all the EVMs. Also, it is time consuming. Apart from that, the lack of political consensus may also have been taken into consideration.”-Jahangir Alam
Election Commission Secretariat Secretary
Possible political consequences
The use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections has been a topic of debate in Bangladesh in recent years. Proponents of EVMs argue that they can make the voting process more efficient and accurate, while opponents have raised concerns about the reliability and security of these machines. Many opposition parties including Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is opposed to holding elections using EVM.
Holding polls using ballot is one of the biggest demands by BNP, the largest opposition party in Bangladesh. BNP and other opposition parties will welcome the decision, citing concerns about transparency and accountability. They usually argue that paper ballots are a more secure and reliable method of voting.
Overall, the debate over the use of EVMs in Bangladesh reflects a broader discussion about the role of technology in the democratic process and the need to balance innovation with security and accountability.
Schedule for five upcoming local elections
EC Secretary also announced the schedule of local elections in five city corporations which includes Gazipur, Khulna, Barisal, Rajshahi and Sylhet. Election of Gazipur City Corporation will be held on May 25 using electronic voting machine (EVM) according to Mr. Alam.
EC officials said that the countdown for the city elections has started from March 11. The EC has the obligation to vote this city within the next 180 days from March 11. The last vote in Gazipur City Corporation was held on June 27, 2018.
Elections for Khulna and Barisal City Corporation is scheduled for June 12. Rajshahi and Sylhet Corporation will be held on June 21.