The use of the electronic voting machine (EVM) in the upcoming general election is hanging in the balance as it has not received the finance ministry's concession, an official said on Wednesday.
Election Commission secretary Md. Jahangir Alam said this after the 16th commission meeting at the election building on Wednesday.
After the government put on hold a new project proposal of around Tk 9.5 thousand crore, the government is now delaying the release of money for maintenance and repair of old EVMs.
“EVM manufacturing company Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) said that we have 100,000 EVMs, which we will try our best to repair and use in the parliamentary elections subject to receipt of funds from the Finance Ministry. We can finalise the number of seats in which EVMs can be used,” he said.
The Election Commission bought 1.5 lakh EVMs in phases since 2018 at Tk 2.35 lakh each, almost 11 times more than in India.
Now, around five years later, 40,000 of those machines are beyond repair while the rest 1.1 lakh can be fixed but that requires around Tk 1,260 crore, according to a proposal from Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF).
Jahangir Alam said that the EC will send a letter to the Ministry of Finance to release the money. If the finance ministry agrees to pay, then in the next step EC can tell you in how many constituencies EVMs will be used.
In response to a question from reporters, the EC secretary said that they are thinking of using as much as possible. “The number of voters is different from place to place. So if smaller areas can be taken, more EVMs will be used and if in a large area, there will be less. So I can say rhat clearly after receiving the final report,” he added.
In response to another question, he said that the commission has always been saying that they will try their best to use EVMs in 70 to 80 seats.
“We have not moved away from that. The number of seats where EVMs will be used will depend on the number of EVM machines available. It depends on how many machines are available, how many of them can be made usable,” he added.
The then KM Nurul Huda Commission bought two lakh EVM machines before the 11th national elections in 2018. At that time they used EVMs in six constituencies in the national elections. The rest are used for local elections including by-elections to various constituencies. Some machines are stored in the BMTF warehouse. A total of one lakh machines became unusable.
Kazi Habibul Awal, after taking charge in February last year, discussed with various stakeholders and took up the plan to use EVMs in 150 seats. About four lakh machines are required for this. The Election Commission made a new proposal of Tk 8,711 crore to the government for the purchase and maintenance of two lakh more machines. But the Planning Commission decided to shelve the project proposal citing the global financial crisis.