Hamas does not rule out the possibility of participating in the Palestinian Authority presidential election, slated for May 2012, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Monday.

He also predicted that Hamas would score a landslide victory in the upcoming parliamentary election, which is also expected to take place at the same time.

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Hamas boycotted the two presidential elections that were held in the Palestinian territories in 1995 and 2005.

Zahar’s statements came as PA President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Ramallah with Hamas leaders to discuss ways of achieving “national unity” and preparations for the elections.

Zahar told the Egyptian Asharq Alawsat newspaper that many Palestinians living in the West Bank won’t vote for Abbas’s Fatah faction in the elections.

“The Palestinian Authority has many debts and this has harmed the families of martyrs and prisoners,” Zahar said. “All of them will vote against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, we have provided Palestinians with security and jobs.”

Zahar admitted, however, his movement had suffered a setback in the West Bank as a result of PA and Israeli security clampdowns.

“Hamas is under security siege in the West Bank,” he said. “Some of our men have died as a result of torture [in PA prisons].”

Asked whether Hamas was contemplating presenting its own candidate in the next presidential election, Zahar replied: “We’re not dealing with this issue at present... but we have enough capable people who can lead. There is no veto on this idea.”

Zahar also scoffed at public opinion polls that show a drop in support for Hamas among Palestinians. He said these polls reminded him of the ones that were published prior to the 2006 parliamentary election “when everyone was surprised by the Hamas victory.”

At the Ramallah meeting, Abbas briefed the Hamas representatives on the outcome of last week’s discussions in Cairo between various Palestinian factions.

The Cairo meeting paved the way for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical Palestinian groups to join the Fatah-dominated PLO.

Abbas told the Hamas leaders that he was satisfied with the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas and reiterated his desire to end divisions among the Palestinians and hold new elections.

The Hamas delegation that met with Abbas included Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and former ministers Nasser Eddin Shaer and Samir Abu Eisheh.

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