Abbas Finland 298 88.
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's popularity has increased since his rivals from Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian leader would easily win a re-election if a vote were held today, according to a poll released Monday.
The poll found that 73 percent of Palestinians oppose Hamas's Gaza takeover last June, when the group routed forces from Abbas' Fatah movement during five days of infighting.
Abbas responded by expelling Hamas from a Palestinian unity government, and installing a new Cabinet in his West Bank stronghold. His new government has been embraced by Israel and the international community, while Hamas has plunged into deep international isolation.
The poll was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, an independent think tank based in Ramallah. The agency questioned 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem between Sept. 6-8, and the survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
"The takeover has served President Abbas because his popularity and Fatah's popularity has increased," said the center's director, Khalil Shikaki.
According to the poll, 31 percent of respondents supported Hamas, while 48 percent supported Fatah. In comparison, 33 percent supported Hamas in June, at the time of the takeover, while 43 percent backed Fatah. Hamas trounced Fatah in the January 2006 parliamentary elections.
If PA chairmanship elections were held today, Abbas would win 59 percent, compared to 36 percent for Hamas's deposed prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. The poll did not give comparable results for June, but past surveys had put the men neck in neck.
Abbas has promised to call new chairmanship and parliamentary elections, but would not yet set a date. Elections for the chairmanship are currently scheduled for 2009, and a parliamentary vote is scheduled in 2010.
Not all the news was good for Abbas, however. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would not vote if new elections were held. And 32 percent expressed their desire to leave the Palestinian areas, up from 28 percent in June. The numbers reflected the widespread economic misery in the West Bank, and especially Gaza Strip.