The Election Commission (EC) has finalised a project worth Tk8,711 crore to procure 2 lakh new electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the 12th parliamentary elections.
The commission okayed the proposal on Monday in a meeting held at the EC building in the capital's Agargaon.
The project proposal will be forwarded to the Planning Commission for approval within two days, said Ashok Kumar, additional secretary of the EC.
"Implementation of the project at a cost of Tk8,711 crore includes the repairing and maintenance of the 2 lakh EVMs to be procured," he said.
"Besides, four vehicles and 534 pickup vans will be purchased and 10 warehouses will be built under the project," added the EC official.
The EVM procurement project comes as the EC decided to use EVMs at 150 constituencies in the upcoming national elections.
"With the EVMs we currently have we can hold elections at a maximum of 70-80 seats. As we have decided on using EVMs in 150 constituencies, the commission tabled the project proposal in its meeting, and we approved it," said Election Commissioner Md Alamgir.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal joined the meeting virtually as he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to sources, the EC will be sourcing a unit of the new EVM at Tk3.05 lakh, while in 2018 the price was Tk2.34 lakh.
"The reason behind the increased cost is due to the hiked dollar price," a project related official said requesting anonymity.
A number of political parties, including the Jatiya Party and the BNP, and a group of eminent citizens have been opposing the use of EVM.
The EC, in its roadmap unveiled on 14 September, said 17 of the 29 political parties that participated in the EC dialogue were in favour of EVM and 12 were against it. But a review of the written proposals given by the parties in the EC dialogue shows three of the 17 parties were also against EVM.
Besides, nine of the 17 parties added conditions for the use of EVMs in the upcoming elections while one party gave no opinion on EVM, leaving only four parties including the ruling Awami League in favour of EVM.
Clearing the confusion over the matter, Election Commissioner Md Alamgir on 17 September said, "Many came to the dialogue with their written stance against EVMs. But, they later changed their minds after the talks. We listed them in favour of EVM."
He further elaborated saying, "We have become certain from all aspects that EVMs cannot be tampered with. Many have said they want EVMs if the machines cannot be rigged. So, based on that, we have seen a total of 17 parties want EVMs."
Earlier on 6 September, some 39 notable citizens urged the Election Commission to backtrack on the decision of using EVMs at the forthcoming national election and raised questions about spending a big sum to import the devices amid the ongoing economic crisis.