Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday turned down BNP’s demand for not using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the Dhaka city elections slated for January 30.
After a meeting with the CEC, the BNP alleged that the EVMs would be used in the Dhaka north and south city corporation polls for “silent vote rigging”, while the CEC said they wanted to ensure no irregularities take place in the elections.
“As EVM is an offline system, there is no scope for hacking. There is no scope for silent vote rigging. We had used the EVM in the parliamentary, local government, and city corporation elections. Voters or candidates did not raise such allegations,” the CEC said.
Defending the EC’s decision to use the voting machine at all polling centres in the DNCC and DSCC polls, the CEC said there were allegations in the past that votes were rigged, and cast ballots were thrown into ponds, even burnt.
“For getting rid of such irregularities, we are using the EVM,” he said, adding that a voter could not cast more than one vote in the EVM system.
The voting machine will not function before and after the polling time, the CEC said.
“We don’t have any plan to backtrack on the decision of using the EVM in the elections. We have made all preparations. We are fully ready,” he said.
Before the CEC talked to journalists at the commission, BNP Standing Committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said they urged the commission to refrain from using the EVM in the city polls.
“EVM is a method for stealing votes silently. EVM’s programming will be controlled, and election results will be manipulated,” he said.
“We don’t know anything about the programming, and there is no paper trail system for verification [after casting votes]. The use of EVM is dependent on presiding and assistant presiding officers. It cannot ensure people’s voting right.”
He said only four countries out of 200 are using the system. But there is no controversy over the Election Commission and the administration of the four countries.
The BNP leader said they informed the CEC in the meeting that police were arresting and harassing their candidates.
He alleged that a party-backed councillor candidate was arrested, while another was abducted and found in Munshiganj. The house of a party-backed female ward councillor candidate was also vandalised.
About the BNP’s allegation, the CEC said there would be no unnecessary arrest till January 30. “Police will take action only in line with the warrant of court. Our officials will talk to the police regarding the issue,” he added.
In the meeting, the BNP delegation handed party’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir’s letter to the CEC with a set of demands, including stopping any police drive without approval of the EC during the election time.
Other demands include depositing all legal arms to the police, issuing instructions for not setting up election camps within 500 metre off a polling station, declaration of the area within the purview of the armed forces on the election day, forming a security cell at every polling centre under the armed forces members, and ensuring entrance of journalists to polling centres.
BNP mayor candidate for DNCC Tabith Awal and its DSSC mayor candidate Ishraque Hossain, among others, joined the meeting.
Replying to a reporter’s query about BNP mayor candidate Tabith’s allegation that Awami League DNCC mayor candidate Atiqul Islam breached the electoral code of conduct, the CEC said, “The returning officer received the allegations and took actions … Election officials will conduct the polls following the rules and regulations.”
Atiqul was served a show-cause notice yesterday over the allegation.
He, along with a lawmaker, inaugurated an election camp at Uttara in his electoral area on Sunday, which is a clear violation of the Election Code of Conduct Rules-2016, the notice said.
The RO also asked Atiqul to come up with a written answer within the next two working days to explain why legal action would not be taken against him for violating the electoral code of conduct.
No aspirant will be able to carry out electioneering before allocation of electoral symbol, and no lawmakers and ministers are eligible to take part in the electioneering in favour of anyone.
The last date for withdrawal of the is January 9.