Imported voting machines cant be trusted: CEC

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New York | Updated: May 11 2011, 07:08am hrs
After the revolution in Tahrir Square, Egyptian authorities consulted Indias Election Commission for help in conducting parliamentary polls in the country, only to get cautious advice from chief election commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi. He asked his Egyptian counterpart to not import electronic voting machines (EVMs) from anywhere and get these manufactured domestically. Imported machines, however faultless they are, could be deemed suspect, he warned.

The validity of any election lies in the fairness of the process, if the machine is imported from somewhere, there is always a possibility that the election will be questioned as being rigged through the machines, he said, in an interview to FE. The recent campaign against the use of EVMs in Indian elections, Quraishi said, hinges on the chip, which is manufactured outside the country and is therefore supposed to be suspect.

I was very clear that our process was very fair, but the indigenisation of manufacturing would make their elections invulnerable to such charges. I told anti-EVM campaigners as well, set up units which manufacture the chip in India, and well talk, he added.

While the Egyptians may take a call on whether or not to adhere to Quraishis advice, the CEC, at the end of a long season of conducting assembly polls in four states and one Union territory, said that the road to electoral reforms in India itself is a long and bumpy road. Its been 18 years and counting, he said.

The last set of meetings that we had on electoral reforms, where everything from paid news to criminality in politics and the role of money power was discussed, was in October. After that, we are still waiting for the political class to make up its mind on which way they want to go, he said.

Among the suggestions made by the CEC was the exclusion of those accused of heinous crimes from standing for elections as a way to check criminality in politics as well as transparency about political donors, and cheque payments for electoral expenses in order to curb the use of black money in elections.

As the last phase of the drawn-out West Bengal polls ends, Quraishi says that the peaceful elections in all four states and one Union territory has justified is often criticised timetable. Although I dont know why people criticised us, the only people who have been punished by the schedule is the staff of the Election Commission, he said.