A group of 39 notable citizens have urged the Election Commission to backtrack on the decision of using electronic voting machines, widely known as EVMs, in up to 150 parliamentary seats at the forthcoming national election.
The group – comprising of member of Bangladesh's constitution formulation committee and former minister Barrister Amir-ul Islam, Dhaka University Emeritus Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, former caretaker government advisors M Hafizuddin Khan and Akbar Ali Khan and Justice Md Abdul Matin, among others – made the call through a press release issued on Tuesday.
Terming the commission's move to use EVMs as absurd, they raised questions about the use of some $450 million in foreign currencies to import the devices in the midst of the ongoing economic crisis.
"Without political consensus, the Election Commission has decided to use EVMs in the upcoming general election. We think the decision is irrational. This will further fuel political debate and make the Commission's lack of confidence even more pronounced. We will once again suffer through a failed election, which will send us into dire straits as a nation." the release reads.
It noted that the EVM is technically a weak machine. "It does not have the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail system, which means that the results declared by the commission are final and cannot be audited. That is why the chairman of the technical advisory committee formed by the commission, late Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, did not sign the recommendation papers to buy EVMs in 2018."
Civil society people believe as biometric-based EVMs cannot identify many voters and the commission empowers presiding officers to unlock the machine in those cases, digital fraud can also be perpetrated there.
"Like any other digital device, EVM results can be manipulated through programming," they stated, adding that many developed nations, including Germany, France and the Netherlands, have backtracked on EVM use.
Only 13 countries across the globe are currently using the device in their elections.
"At a press conference regarding the decision to use EVMs, the CEC mentioned that the views of political parties were not taken into account when they made the decision. So, it has become clear that the commission's dialogues with the political parties and civil society were meaningless."
Economists Debapriya Bhattacharya, Ahsan H Mansur, former Bangladesh Bank Governor Saleh Uddin Ahmed, lawyer Shahdeen Malik, Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder Zafrullah Chowdhury, former election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain, former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder, local government expert Tofail Ahmed, photographer Shahidul Alam, Jahangirnagar University Professor Anu Muhammad, Dhaka University Professors Asif Nazrul and Rehnuma Ahmed, journalists Abu Saeed Khan and Kamal Ahmed, Citizens for Good Governance Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder, information technology specialist Saifur Rahman, Monash University Professor M Niaz Asadullah and senior software solution architect Fayez Ahmad Tayyub were among the 39 signatories to the statement.