Pales­tinian poll finds only 15 per­cent would vote for Ha­mas

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Abra­ham Rabi­novich

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.

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