Hints at all-EVM polls: BNP’s distrust of the govt to deepen
The Awami League's hints at an all-EVM national polls will only raise the BNP's distrust of the ruling party, political analysts have said.
The BNP has long been opposing the use of electronic voting machines and polls under a partisan government.
At a meeting of the AL Central Working Committee on May 7, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that EVMs would be used in all of the 300 constituencies in the national election, slated for next year and that the government would make an all-out effort to ensure BNP's participation in the polls.
But experts say the EVM issue might harm the government initiative for an all-party election, as most of the parties and civil society members are against the use of EVMs in the general election, unless there is political consensus.
Contacted, Ali Riaz, distinguished professor of political science at the Department of Politics and Government of Illinois State University, said the discussion on the EVMs was a non-starter and a distraction from the primary issue related to the upcoming election.
"The central question regarding the next election is what kind of government will oversee it. It is now evident that an election under a partisan government will neither be fair nor participatory. This is a political question and cannot be pretended to be resolved through adoption of a controversial technology."
EVM, particularly the one that does not have a "voter verified paper audit trail", is open to manipulation, he said.
"Such machines have been discarded by most of the countries around the world. Therefore, engaging in such a debate is pointless… Who is making the decision about it? No political party, neither the incumbent nor the opposition, can and should make such a decision.
"For the Election Commission, the question is: Why is it even considering adoption of a machine that most of the political parties and members of the civil society have objected to?
"The EC has yet to demonstrate any signs that it intends to earn the trust of the voters, it should rather focus on rebuilding some semblance of an autonomous body which is willing to act to ensure a fair election."
Other commentators said the opposition had adequate reasons for not trusting the ruling party, but they expressed hopes that both camps would reach a consensus in the coming days.
Al Masud Hasanuzzaman, professor of government and politics at Jahangirnagar University, said, "The ruling party talked about a fair election. Maybe there are some national and international pressures [for a credible election]. We have to wait and see what sorts of steps it takes to hold an election that is credible."
Soon after the May 7 meeting, the BNP said the use of EVM was a new technique for vote rigging and the party would not participate in any election overseen by the incumbent government, because "a free and fair election is not possible" under this government.
The BNP boycotted the general election held on January 5, 2014, demanding that a non-partisan, interim government hold the polls. The party participated in the following parliamentary polls even though its demand was not met and got only six seats in the election marred by "vote rigging" and "ballot stuffing".
BNP later participated in some local government elections but started boycotting those elections too accusing of vote rigging.
The AL, however, maintains that an election-time non-partisan government is unconstitutional.
Shantanu Majumder, professor of political science at Dhaka University, said that both camps were likely to change their tough stance in the coming days.
"The Awami League could not hold credible elections in 2014 and 2018… Whatever the reality, the responsibility goes to the ruling party to a great extent," he said.
As the BNP has been out of parliament for a long time, boycotting the election would be a threat to its existence.
"Keeping these matters in mind, both the AL and the BNP will come to a consensus. But it is too early to say how things will pan out."