barghouti poster298 88ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Fatah's Marwan Barghouti and West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef are the leading candidates among the security prisoners in Israeli jails who are running in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
Abu Ali Yatta - who has spent more than 25 years in jail - a university lecturer and currently an inmate of a Palestinian jail, is also running. In total, 31 prisoners are running, figures on the Palestinian Central Elections Commission's Web site show.
Despite their candidacies, the security prisoners were not receiving any special dispensations from the Prisons Service, said spokesman Ofer Lefler.
"They can't do anything. Everything is fixed. There is no way to campaign and speak to the outside," he said. "They don't have any telephone conversations in prison. They are exactly like the other prisoners and they don't have any extra privileges just because they are standing," he said.
Nevertheless, this week Barghouti has been allowed to give television interviews to Al-Jazeera and the UK's Channel 4 news, following a decision of the High Court of Justice.
Despite the constraints, though, the top candidates still retain a strong hold on the electorate, said Dr. Nabil Kukali, who owns the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.
"Marwan Barghouti is the most popular man in the Palestinian territories. All the polls show he is the most trusted and most of the people have confidence in him," Kukali said. "His interview with Al-Jazeera helped Fatah a lot. He will help Fatah get more votes in the elections and that is very important for them. They need a lot of help."
Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his involvement in terrorist attacks that killed five civilians. Although this meant he was unable to campaign, it had helped distance him from the corruption and mismanagement surrounding Fatah during its time in government, Kukali said.
Hamas's Yousef is in administrative detention in Shikma Prison in Ashkelon after his arrest a few months ago, having spent the better part of the past two decades in and out of Israeli jails. Kukali said he was respected among the electorate and was considered a moderate compared with other Hamas leaders.
"The Palestinians think Yousef is open-minded and that's the reason many people in the West Bank support him to lead the Hamas list," said Kukali, adding that his following was stronger in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank.
Despite being incarcerated for so long, Yatta is second behind Barghouti on Fatah's list. "He's well known in Hebron, which is important," Kukali said. "Hebron is considered a Hamas city and he will help Fatah get votes there... People haven't forgotten him and they have a lot of sympathy."
No. 16 on Hamas's list is Omar Matar, a university lecturer with a doctorate in economics who was arrested a month ago, said an official from the Central Elections Commission. Matar is from Salfit, which is between Ramallah and Nablus.
Ahmed Sa'adat is running at the head of the PFLP list from his cell in a Palestinian prison in Jericho, where he is under international supervision. His organization took responsibility for the assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2003.