Dhaka, Bangladesh
EVM use in Dhaka polls destined to be discarded

EVM use in Dhaka polls destined to be discarded

News Special: Indications are rife that the much-debated digital voting may be discarded or limited in the final resort in the upcoming Dhaka polls. Such possible reversal of the decision made by the Election Commission appeared more likely than not from views of the two major parties in the contest-the opposition BNP insisting on their demand for forsaking the EVM and the ruling Awami League side passing the buck to the EC. Senior BNP leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain Monday alleged that the Election Commission is not taking any step to ensure a level playing field though their party candidates are being obstructed from carrying out electioneering ahead of the elections to the two Dhaka city corporations. "The ruling-party candidates are preventing our election campaign through attacks at different places. Our councillor candidates are being intimidated, their houses attacked and their loudspeakers being snatched during campaign. It's very regrettable," he said. He came up with the allegation while talking to reporters after placing wreaths at BNP- founder Ziaur Rahman's grave together with party's Dhaka north and south city candidates Tabith Awal and Ishraque Hossain. Mosharraf, a BNP standing committee member, said the current 'subservient' Election Commission will not be able to hold a fair and neutral election under a 'vote robber' government. "But we've taken part in the polls as part of our movement for restoration of democracy and having Khaleda Zia freed from jail." He urged the Election Commission to back off from its decision on use of the electronic voting machine or EVM in the city polls set for January 30. The BNP leader said their party's mayoral candidates and its most councillor candidates will come out successful if the elections are held in a fair and neutral manner, and voters can cast their votes without any fear and obstruction. Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Monday said the party's two 'clean-imaged mayoral candidates' Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh and Atiqul Islam are enough to conduct election campaign and face BNP candidates in the upcoming Dhaka city polls. "Awami League leaders and workers did not violate electoral code of conduct in the city elections. We will conduct election campaign abiding by the code of conduct," he told a press conference after a secretariat meeting of the party at AL president's Dhanmondi political office. Quader, also Road Transport and Bridges Minister, said BNP Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir is spreading misleading information about AL's election campaign. Asked about making AL Advisory Council Members Amir Hossain Amu and Tofail Ahmed as chief coordinators for the party's election campaigns in DSCC and DNCC respectively, Quader said AL can form committee for steering the election but they are not going outside for election campaign. "Our MPs will not violate electoral code of conduct," he added. Earlier, Obaidul Quader said Awami League will contest the elections to Dhaka's two city corporations whether or not the EVM are used. He said it's only for the EC to decide whether the machines would be used in the polls. "There's no way to create debate over the use of EVM," he said. EVM is a recognized modern and digital system which allows quick vote casting and count. But, BNP is against the use of EVM in the Dhaka city corporation elections," he had said while distributing warm clothes among cold-hit people at Saidpur Railway Officers' Colony ground in Nilphamari. Meanwhile, expressing the hope that the upcoming Dhaka elections will be fair and held peacefully, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda has said the EVM will be used in the polls. The CEC backtracked on his earlier stand that they would not use the EVM in the Dhaka city polls if every party didn't want the machine. EVMs were first used in Bangladesh in the 2012 Chittagong municipal polls. It was later used in Narayanganj and Cumilla city polls. The machines were also used in the last general election on December 30, 2018 selectively. However, reported mismatch in turnout in count after the EVM voting in selected centres in Khulna City Corporation polls comes into reference in talks on the issue of EVM use. The BNP and some other opposition parties say the machine can be manipulated and, hence, been abandoned even in some developed countries. Election-monitoring experts and a former election commissioner agree on such scepticism, though they say eventually such technology has to be adopted through foolproof improvements on the machine. "Even in India, the EVM triggered controversy and a modification was done to show counterfoil of the vote cast on the right symbol with a printout," said former election commissioner Brig-Gen Sakhawat Hossain (retired). A retired top bureaucrat, Abu Alam Md. Shahid Khan, who was Secretary at Local Government Division in the Ministry for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, is of the opinion that the EC should reverse its decision as the ruling party is lenient on the matter. "The election commission can change its decision on EVM use as the Awami League leaves the matter to the commission," he said at a live talk, citing objection to the jettisoning of the voting machine in a number of countries, including Germany.

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