Pollster: No potential successor to Abbas has youth support

The poll surveyed 1,000 Palestinian youths, ages 15 to 29, from the West Bank and Gaza Strip from September 28 to October 1.

October 11, 2016 07:58
2 minute read.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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If PA President Mahmoud Abbas does not run in the next Palestinian elections, no single leader is likely to garner a significant percentage of the youth vote.

According to a poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, 13.4% of Palestinian youth said they would vote for Marwan Barghouti, a jailed Fatah leader; 9.5% for Ismail Haniyeh, the deputy chairman of the Hamas Politburo; 8.5% for Mohammad Dahlan, an exiled Fatah leader; and lesser percentages for other Palestinian leaders.

The poll surveyed 1,000 Palestinian youths, ages 15 to 29, from the West Bank and Gaza Strip from September 28 to October 1.

“None of the possible Palestinian leaders, including Marwan Barghouti, have a strong enough base of support, which would allow them to take over the Palestinian leadership,” Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University who supervised the poll, told The Jerusalem Post, saying the results indicate there is a “political vacuum.”

Many analysts, including former justice minister Yossi Beilin, have recently suggested that Barghouti is slowly emerging as the consensus candidate among Palestinians.

The poll also found that an overwhelming majority do not want the Palestinian Authority to be dissolved, with 63.8% saying they want “to maintain and perpetuate” the PA, and only 27% saying they want to dissolve it.

Khatib said the primary reason Palestinian youth want to maintain the PA is to avoid chaos.

“Palestinian youth fear that security, economic and social chaos will come along with the collapse of the PA. Until an alternative to the PA is presented, I believe the public will continue to support the perpetuation of the stability of the PA over the chaos of its collapse,” he said.

Abbas said on multiple occasions in 2015 that he may have no choice but to dissolve the PA if the status quo of Israel’s military rule continues. More recently, however, Abbas has backtracked and said the Palestinian leadership values “the accomplishment of the PA” and will not dissolve it.

Nevertheless, just 10.7% of respondents called the political situation their greatest problem, while more than half, 54.5%, said unemployment is the biggest issue.

“Palestinian youth consider unemployment their primary concern because they are looking for jobs,” Khatib remarked, adding that “they still care about the political situation, because when we have asked them previously about why youth face unemployment, they point to the occupation.”

According to a World Bank report issued in mid-September, unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza stands at 18% and 42%, respectively.

Of those polled, 51.7% said that “being a good citizen,” namely working and studying, is the best way to promote political change, compared to just 5.2% who said lone-wolf attacks were the most effective.

Khatib said these results suggest that the Palestinian population has “internalized that lone-wolf attacks are ineffective” because Palestinian youth are dying while carrying out attacks without changing any facts on the ground.

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