THE likelihood that the Election Commission could use electronic voting machines in the next general elections — as some politicians and election experts suspect, terming it to be a ‘conspiracy’ that the ruling Awami League is hatching — may come with worries that might mar the election. They think, as New Age reported on Tuesday, that the commission was taking such a move keeping to what the Awami League wants while most other major political parties in dialogues with the commission in 2017 suggested no use of the electronic voting machines in the national elections to be held before January 28, 2019. The chief election commissioner in May 2017 said that the machines would be used in the next parliamentary elections if all political parties reached a consensus on this. In November 2017, he, however, said that the machines would not be used in the next general elections as the commission was not prepared for it. But politicians and experts had their suspicion founded in what the chief election commissioner at a programme in Patuakhali on Saturday said — the commission has plans to use the voting machines in the next elections. The commission’s secretary also echoed the statement of the chief election commissioner.
In the process, while what the Election Commission says is creating controversy, it is also shifting away from its prime task of holding fair, credible and participatory elections. The main job of the commission is now to earn the confidence of major political parties and people by holding elections taking on board all major political parties. The commission, as such, has a number of failures in holding elections, national or local, beginning with the January 2014 elections, in which all major political parties other than the Awami League stayed off the electoral fray, to all the local government elections. More than a half of the parliamentary seats, or 153 out of the 300 seats, enough to form a party to form the government, were elected uncontested in the 2014 elections, making the government unrepresentative and bringing down the credibility of the commission. The local government elections that the commission held were marred by electoral fraud and violence so much so that the union council elections held in 2016 came to be called a macabre celebrations of the death of people. In the wake of such failures, the commission should now mind its task of holding the elections drawing in all the major political parties.
Experts also think, rightly, that it would be tough for the commission to use the voting machines as it would not be possible to make the required number of devices in such a short time. Error-checking of the machines would also take a long time; and an early use of the machines without error-checking could frustrate the voting process. The Election Commission, if it is prepared adequately, could very well use the electronic voting machines. But the commission must use them on consensus reached by all the major political parties.
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