The ruling Awami League wants the application of electronic voting machine (EVM) in the parliamentary polls to all 300 constituencies despite doubt and mistrust prevailing among most of the parties over the voting system.

The Awami League leaders held a dialogue with the election commission on Tuesday and categorically stated their opinion over the issue.

Only three political parties – Workers Party, Samyabadi Dal, Ganotantri Party – have unequivocally supported the ruling party’s stance over the EVM while all the remaining ones cast doubt, mistrust, and disbelief.

The election commission (EC) took an initiative to hold dialogues with all 39 registered political parties in three phases. The last dialogue was held on Tuesday where the commission invited 13 parties, including Awami League. Of the invited parties, CPB, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, and Biplabi Workers Party refrained from attending the event.

A six-member Awami League delegation headed by its general secretary Obaidul Quader joined the dialogue.

After the meeting, he told the reporters that his partymen, from their heart and spirit, want EVM to be used in all 300 constituencies.

Asked whether the EC is capable of using EVM in all constituencies, Obaidul Quader said it is an issue of the commission.

In his earlier address at the dialogue, the Awami League general secretary said the EC, with a total of 150,000 devices, has a capacity of ensuring EVM in 31 per cent constituencies. He urged the commission to increase the number of devices ahead of the upcoming parliamentary polls.

He also said his party believes that the widespread use of technology, including EVM, has increased transparency and accountability of all activities. Vote rigging and other electoral frauds have been contained thanks to the EVM.

Quader urged the commission to take necessary steps to make the EVM popular and accessible to all through public campaigns.

Other members of the AL delegation were presidium members Kazi Zafarullah and Faruk Khan, advisory council member Shahabuddin, office secretary Biplab Barua, information and research secretary Selim Mahmud and deputy office secretary Sayem Khan.

Fear of hidden mechanism

In the view exchange meeting, four political parties opposed the proposal for EVM use in all constituencies. Gono Forum presidium member Suraiya Begum told the meeting that the EVM is well recognised as a flawed system as it does not guarantee that a voter has cast his vote for the symbol of his choice. Besides, the devices have many mechanisms to easily change results through vote rigging.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal standing committee member Mosharraf Hossain said it will not be a right decision to hold the next parliamentary polls using EVM as the method is yet to be familiar with mass people.

Noting that there is no trust in EVM, Bangladesh National Awami Party secretary general Golam Mustafa Bhuiyan said doubt and mistrust prevail in the country’s political arena over the EVM. The people believe that it is a 'trusted device for automatic ballot rigging.'

Bikalpa Dhara secretary general Abdul Mannan admitted the EVM is an advanced technology, but raised a question over efficiency of mass people in using it. Even he cast doubt over the EC’s capacity in providing EVMs to all polling booths.

No response from 11 parties

Out of the 39 registered political parties, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and 10 others did not respond to the EC’s invitation to the electoral dialogue. The BNP said they have no interest in the current EC; rather their main target is to establish a non-partisan election-time government. Moreover, the party has long been opposing the use of EVM in elections.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) sent a letter to the EC on Tuesday and explained the reasons why it boycotted the dialogue. It said there is no need to use EVM in the next parliamentary polls when the system failed to gain trust and most of the political parties are opposing it.

In its letter to EC, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal said the EC cannot play an effective role in holding a fair election and it is reflected in the mayoral polls to Cumilla City Corporation.

Chief election commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal and other commissioners, except for Rasheda Sultana, attended the dialogue on Tuesday.

Talking to reporters after the dialogue, the chief election commissioner said the commission would assess its capacity and review the decision of using EVM in the upcoming national polls. A decision will be taken later, Kazi Habibul Awal added.