Palestinian poll finds only 15 percent would vote for Hamas
JERUSALEM — A Palestinian poll published last week shows Hamas winning only 15 percent of the vote if elections were held now, compared with 42 percent for the secular Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The dramatic decline in Hamas support since its victory in last year’s elections appears related to the international boycott of the Islamist organization and its forcible takeover of the Gaza Strip last month, although the poll did not attempt to pinpoint causes.
A surprising 43 percent were unwilling to express support for either of the two main Palestinian parties in the survey, which was conducted among about 1,400 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the research center of an-Najah National University in Nablus.
In the elections held in January 2006, Hamas won 44 percent of the popular vote but 56 percent of the seats in parliament. The government it formed was boycotted by most of the international community, which termed Hamas a terrorist organization because of its use of suicide bombers and its declared intention of destroying Israel.
International funding on which the Palestinians were dependent was largely cut off, leading to severe economic problems, with government employees going unpaid for months on end. Continued feuding between the two movements peaked in June with Hamas security forces taking control of Gaza in brutal fighting.
Mr. Abbas, who remained in the West Bank, dissolved the unity government and appointed Salam Fayyad, a political independent, to head an emergency government. Hamas classified that West Bank- based government as illegal and retained its own government in the Gaza Strip.
The an-Najah University poll found an overwhelming majority of Palestinians, 68 percent, favoring early legislative and presidential elections in order to resolve the crisis.
Mr. Abbas called for early elections but Hamas rejects his bid. No elections can be held in the Gaza Strip without Hamas’ consent.