Most Palestinians Believe Long-Awaited Elections Will Take Place
Survey of West Bank and Gaza residents finds Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, economy, graft, Gaza blockade top citizens’ concerns
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are increasingly confident that the Palestinian Authority’s first elections since 2006 will take place as scheduled, and Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned by Israel since 2002 for his involvement in several murders and terror attacks executed in Israel during the Second Intifada, remains their most popular political figure, according a poll released on Tuesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR).
The respondents’ top priorities going into the May 22 Palestinian Legislation Council (PLC) and July 31 presidential votes are uniting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; improving economic conditions; combating corruption; and ending the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
The largest percentage believes a Hamas electoral victory would be bad for all these priorities except combating corruption, where no negative impact is expected. This may be why the findings indicate a rise in the vote for Fatah and a decline in the willingness to vote for Hamas compared to the Ramallah-based PSR’s findings three months ago.
Some 61% of respondents expect the parliamentary vote to take place soon, up from 32% three months ago. If Israel refuses to allow elections to take place in east Jerusalem, 65% said east Jerusalemites should vote just outside the city limits. Another 27% demand the cancelation of elections if Israel does not allow east Jerusalemites to vote in their city.
But only 42%of Palestinians believe the elections will be free and fair, and 48% think they will not be free and fair. Moreover, 69% of those who responded to the survey believe that if Hamas wins, Fatah will not accept the results, and 60% say that if Fatah wins, Hamas will do the same.
A major concern for Fatah is whether party dissidents will lead independent electoral lists in the PLC vote, splitting the movement’s vote and leading to a possible repeat of the scenario that led to Hamas’ victory in the legislative contest back in 2006.
Former Fatah Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who is living in exile in Abu Dhabi, and Nasser al-Qudwa, former PA President Yasser Arafat’s nephew, have both considered leading such independent lists.
More seriously, if Barghouti, serving five life sentences in Israel for the murders committed when he led Fatah’s Tanzim paramilitary offshoot during the Second Intifada, presents his own candidates list, the movement’s vote would split into near-equal parts, according to the survey.
As for the presidency, the public shows a clear preference to see Barghouti (22%) lead the PA over the incumbent Mahmoud Abbas (14%) of Fatah, or Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh (9%). The findings indicate a limited increase in demand for Abbas’ resignation, despite the fact that he is polling slightly better at 47% in a one-on-one competition against Haniyeh, with 46%, than he did three months ago.
Only 23% of the public think Abbas is the best Fatah candidate for president; and 57% view him as the wrong choice. Some 49% of Palestinians prefer Barghouti, 12% prefer Dahlan, 5% back current Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, and 4% support Qudwa.
There is a limited rise in optimism, to 34%, for a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and a rise to 43% in the perception that West Bankers can criticize the PA without fear.
Almost half of the public, at 43%, which is slightly fewer than three months ago, is still reluctant or unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A majority of 58% opposes to a return to bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations without preconditions, despite the optimism generated by the election of the Biden administration.
On the other hand, despite the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to assert jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories, 66% of the public is pessimistic about the court’s ability to restrict Israeli behavior, while 25% expects it to impose at least some restrictions. In fact, a large majority, or 73%, thinks that no Israeli official will ever be prosecuted by the court, while 21% think one or more Israeli officials might be prosecuted.
The PSR interviewed 1,200 adults face to face in 120 randomly selected locations in the West Bank and Gaza between March 14 and 19. The margin of error is +/-3%.