The Election Commission is not prepared to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all 300 constituencies in the upcoming parliamentary polls due late next year or early 2024, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal said on Tuesday.
"The commission lacks the capability to hold elections in all parliamentary seats using EVMs," the CEC said at a press briefing at the commission's secretariat in the capital.
On Monday, Election Commissioner M Alamgir told the media that EVMs could be used in 100 seats in the upcoming elections if the system can gain political parties' confidence.
The ruling Awami League wants EVMs to be used in all 300 constituencies in the next national elections.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently said the next national election will be held using EVMs.
She said the development of the election process has been made by the Awami League government as transparent ballot boxes, voter lists with pictures and EVM were the demand of her party to ensure the voting rights of mass people.
Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Tuesday said the party had nothing to do with the issue as it depends on the capacity and ability of the commission.
"We want EVMs at all seats across the country but the EC will do it according to its ability. We have no objection regarding this matter," said Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, at a press conference.
Asked about the likelihood of holding discussions with political parties on the EVM issue, CEC Habibul Awal said, "It is being written about in magazines and all have been informed about our stance. Our duty is to conduct the election."
On Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's statement, he said it was not clear whether her statement was as the prime minister or the Awami League president.
"Statements of the Awami League president, the BNP chief or Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal's secretary-general are a different matter altogether," he added.
The CEC further said the commission was not feeling pressured by the prime minister's statement on EVMs.
"Ultimately, we will review and decide on the method according to which the vote will be conducted. That is our business. We are independent in this matter," he added.
Meanwhile, the EVM system has triggered a debate as the opposition parties have alleged that the government would rig votes by manipulating the machines.
The BNP has said the ruling Awami League will try to rig the election by manipulating EVMs.
Its Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has deemed EVMs as the ruling party's new "trap".
BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi also opposed the idea of holding the election using EVMs, noting many countries already backed off from the system due to various flaws.
He said ballot papers must be used instead of EVMs for holding a fair, credible and transparent election.
The BNP leader said people got a message in advance that the next polls would be marred with massive rigging and vote robbery from Obaidul Quader's comment that the election would be held using EVMs and the commission will remain neutral.
Reacting to the issue, Jatiya Party Chairperson and Deputy Leader of the opposition in parliament GM Quader said it is the EC's responsibility to decide the manner in which the election will be held.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) President ASM Abdur Rob said the government wants to use EVMs not to restore people's rights to vote but to retain power.
The Election Commission headed by CEC Kazi Habibul Awal took charge on 28 February. Then he held dialogues with the stakeholders to prepare a roadmap for the forthcoming 12th parliamentary election utilising the outcome of a series of dialogues.
Till now, the CEC arranged four dialogues with journalists, teachers, local government experts and eminent citizens.
In the dialogues, the participants also talked about the EVM issue. They suggested introducing a paper trail and forming a team with IT experts to resolve the EVM issue and regain the people's confidence in it.