KATHMANDU, Aug 1: The Election Commission (EC) has said it will request the government to purchase Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), concluding that the EC buying such machines on its own will invite ‘unnecessary trouble’.
In a meeting with the senior leaders of the major political parties on Tuesday, the election commissioners presented the details about the options available to purchase the EVMs and urged them to buy the machines.
“We have no other options than to follow technology. But the EC itself is not going to procure the machines as we don’t want to be dragged into controversies,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, adding, “It’s up to the government to arrange the logistics,”
In the meeting, the EC officials presented the pros and cons of EVMs manufactured in the UK and India. “We presented the details about two companies. The government can procure machines from any country if other feasible options are available,” said CEC Yadav.
The EC had tried to purchase the EVMs from Smartmatic but dropped the plan following objection from a section of the commissioners. Failing to procure UK-manufactured EVMS, the EC had sent a team of its experts to India to study the feasibility of using Indian machines in the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections.
After visiting two Indian firms - Bharat Electronic Limited, Banglore and Electronic Corporation of India, Hyderabad - the team had submitted a report to the EC’s secretariat suggesting that the Indian machines can be used in the upcoming elections.
The four-member study team had suggested to the election body that the Indian-made machines will be feasible in Nepal’s elections. The EC wants to digitize voting after reaching a conclusion that using machines will help reduce the election cost and help conduct the election in an effective manner.
“We invited leaders of the major political parties and briefed them about the machines. After having discussions with them, we are formally the government to purchase the machines,” said Yadav.
If everything goes as planned, the government has to purchase at least 21,000 control units for the elections. Each control units need four to seven ballot units.
The EC had first used Indian EVMs in Kathmandu’s constituency 1 during the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections. The result wasn’t challenged by any one. The Indian government had provided 1,200 EVMs to help Nepal in digitizing its election process.
In the second CA elections in 2013, the EC was unable to use the Indian EVMs as these machines were unable to accommodate a large number of political parties contesting the elections. At that time, the Indian-manufactured EVMs could accommodate only up to 64 parties at the most while altogether 122 political parties had registered with the EC for the polls.
According to EC officials, the recently modified Indian machines can accommodate up to 128 political parties, so they can be used in Nepal. Unlike during the previous elections, the number of Nepal’s political parties is likely to decrease significantly as the election law has introduced a threshold provision for the parties to get national status.