Agence France Presse (AFP)
December 11, 2008 - 1:00am

Most Palestinians believe that Western-backed president Mahmud Abbas’s term ends in January and they support holding new elections next year, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The same poll found that Abbas holds a 10-point lead over his rivals in the Islamist Hamas, which has said it will refuse to recognise him as president when his constitutionally mandated four-year term expires on January 9.

The quarterly poll carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) found that 64 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip think Abbas’s term ends in January.

But if parliamentary elections were held today 42 percent of Palestinians would vote for Abbas’s secular Fatah party compared with 28 percent for Hamas, with each movement down one percentage point since September.

If presidential elections were held today 48 percent would vote for Abbas compared with just 38 percent for Ismail Haniya, who heads the Hamas-run government in Gaza. Abbas led in both the West Bank and Gaza.

The gap between the two theoretical candidates has narrowed by four percentage points since the last PSR poll, which saw Abbas garnering 53 percent and Haniya 39 percent.

The two main Palestinian movements have been bitterly estranged since Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007, driving out security forces loyal to Abbas and cleaving the two territories into hostile rival camps.

Hamas and Fatah have made several attempts at reconciliation, most recently in November when representatives from every major Palestinian faction were to meet for talks in Cairo before Hamas pulled out at the last minute.

Abbas has since said that if national reconciliation talks are not held by the end of the year he will call for snap presidential and parliamentary elections when his term expires next month.

Hamas has said that under the Palestinian constitution Abbas does not have the power to dissolve parliament before its term expires in January 2010.

The survey found that 73 percent support Abbas’s call for new elections if the dialogue fails, but just 40 percent support holding the elections only in the occupied West Bank.

The poll questioned 1,270 people at 127 locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the beginning of December, and had a margin of error of 3 percent.


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