EC finalises Tk8,711cr project to buy 2 lakh EVMs for next JS polls

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Dhaka, Sept 19: The Election Commission (EC) has finalised a project worth Tk8,711 crore to buy 2-lakh new electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the 12th Jatiya Sangsad polls.

“Implementation of the project will cost Tk8,711 crores. This money will be spent on buying new EVMs, repairing and maintaining them,” EC Secretary Humayun Kabir Khandaker said after a meeting of the commission on Monday.

Election Commission Additional Secretary Ashok Kumar Debnath said that the proposal for the Tk 8,711 crore project will be sent to the Planning Commission for approval within two days.

With a year and a half remaining before the 12th national elections, the EC decided to conduct polls in up to 150 constituencies using EVMs, despite opposition from the Jatiya Party and the BNP.

The commission currently has 1.5 lakh EVMs which it can use to hold elections in a maximum of 70 constituencies. To conduct polls using EVMs in up to 150 seats, it needs to purchase 1.5 lakh new EVMs.

Election Commissioner Md Alamgir has dismissed allegations of changing the opinion of political parties on electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the Election Commission’s (EC) roadmap, unveiled Wednesday with the plan to use EVM in 150 seats of the upcoming national elections.

“We have video records of the talks with political parties. We checked their feedback up to three times. We decided on EVMs based on the political parties’ written statements and video records,” the election commissioner said.

According to the EC roadmap, 17 of the 29 political parties which participated in the EC dialogue, were directly in favour of EVM and 12 against it. But a review of the written proposals given by the parties in the EC dialogue shows that 3 out of 17 parties – Bangladesh Islami Front, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, and Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan – were against EVMs.

On the EC’s decision to use EVMs, Election Commissioner Rashida Sultana said that the main responsibility of the EC is to organise free and fair elections.

“The EC will do the needful to implement this objective,” she said.

Rashida Sultana said that they have tested and reviewed the EVM device in various ways and found that the EVM is a very good machine and it will help in holding a free and fair election.

A group of 39 notable citizens recently urged the Election Commission to backtrack on the decision of using EVMs, in up to 150 parliamentary seats at the forthcoming national election.

The group – comprising of member of Bangladesh’s constitution formulation committee and former minister Barrister Amir-ul Islam, Dhaka University Emeritus Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, former caretaker government advisors M Hafizuddin Khan and Akbar Ali Khan and Justice Md Abdul Matin, among others, termed the commission’s move to use EVMs as absurd.

They raised questions about the use of some $450 million in foreign currencies to import the devices in the midst of the ongoing economic crisis.