ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s parliament on Wednesday passed a controversial bill allowing the use of electronic machines for voting. The opposition said the policy is an attempt to rig the next elections.
Lawmakers also passed a bill to grant the right to vote to expats. The bills still must be signed into law by President Arif Alvi, a formality.
The opposition wants elections to continue under a decades-old system that features paper ballots and manual vote-counting.
In his speech before the bills were passed, the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif said Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to manipulate results of the next parliamentary elections, in 2023. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who leads the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, warned of a boycott of the next elections if electronic counting machines were used.
Khan, who was present in the parliament, has defended the legislation, saying he wanted to ensure free and fair elections. Khan says millions of Pakistanis overseas should be given the right to vote for the candidates of their choice.
Khan came to power in 2018 parliamentary elections.
The latest legislation comes amid increasing Khan’s increasing unpopularity amid a sudden hike in food prices.