Amid much criticism and opposition, the Election Commission has relented and decided to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in around 150 constituencies for the next national election.
The decision was made at a meeting of the commission at Agargaon on Tuesday.
"Subject to availability, polls in around 150 seats will be conducted using EVMs," said EC Additional Secretary Ashok Kumar Debnath in a press briefing after the meeting.
Ashok Debnath said the decision was made after reviewing the proposals of the registered political parties made during dialogues with the commission in July last year.
But the outburst of criticism has lent some doubt to the EC's claims.
Expressing anger at the EC's decision, Jatiya Party General Secretary Mujibul Haque said most of the political parties in the dialogue were against the use of EVMs.
"We have also said people have a wrong perception about EVMs. Many also do not know how to use them. EVMs should not be used in this election," he said.
Mujibul Haque also said the decision was shocking as many countries had stopped using EVMs.
"We protest the decision. It seems to me that it was already made and the dialogue with the parties was just for show," he added.
Senior Joint Secretary General of BNP Ruhul Kabir Rizvi also came down hard on the decision, alleging that the chief election commissioner worked under the authority of the government. "This commission does not have the power to go beyond their instructions. The EVM is a digital fraud device. In the last election, votes were cast at night. Now, they will do it during the day."
He said credibility had to be earned before EVMs could be used.
"There is no point going to elections under this EC, the illegal government and certainly not with the EVMs," he said.
Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) General Secretary Ruhin Hossain Prince said although they had not participated in the EC dialogues, they had sent a written statement demanding that EVMs are not used.
"The decision they took today ignores the views of many political parties and raises questions about the credibility of this EC. The EC has decided to use EVMs as part of the process of manipulating the election result."
He also said the EC's "whimsical" decision seemed to be an effort to divert from the CPB's demand of changing the election system.
Prince said the EC should withdraw the decision and introduce a non-party caretaker government during the national election.
Earlier in May, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir had also said their party's main focus was on ensuring the next national election under a non-party neutral government and not on the issue of the EVMs.
"The government has started playing a new trick on the election as they are saying it will be held using the EVMs. We do not understand EVM. We have one point that the current government has to step down, handing over power to a neutral one," he had said.
Former election commissioner Brigadier General Sakhawat Hossain said the EC was being subservient to the government and the decision to use EVMs would hurt the commission's credibility.
"This decision is a disaster. They have already made the election controversial. This election will never be credible. After the election, if someone files a case alleging irregularities in the EVM, asking for a recount, how will it be resolved? How will you prove it?"
Meanwhile, in the press briefing, Ashok Kumar Debnath said, "At present the EC has 1.5 lakh EVMs at its disposal. Voting in 70-75 constituencies can be carried out with them. We need more EVMs for 150 seats. From now on we will take the initiative to buy those."
The EC held dialogues with 28 registered political parties out of the total 39 in July last. Nine political parties, including BNP and its alliance, boycotted the dialogue while two failed to take part.
Among the political parties participating in the dialogue, 15 parties opposed the use of EVMs. On the other hand, 11 political parties, including the Awami League, voted for it. Although the BNP and its alliance boycotted the dialogue, they too opposed the use of EVMs at various times.