Agence France Presse (AFP)
August 18, 2009 - 12:00am

Support among Palestinians for president Mahmud Abbas and his secular Fatah party is greater than that for his Islamist Hamas rivals, according to the results of a poll released on Monday.

The survey carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) found that 52 percent of Palestinians would vote for Abbas to remain president, up three percentage points from three months ago.

The same poll found that just 38 percent of Palestinians would vote for Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip, down from 44 percent in the previous poll.

Support for Fatah, meanwhile, climbed to 44 percent from 41 percent, while support for Hamas dropped from 33 percent to 28 percent, the poll indicated.

When Palestinian elections were last held in 2006 Hamas won an unexpected landslide of 74 parliamentary seats compared with 45 for Fatah.

Abbas may have enjoyed a boost in popularity following the Fatah party congress in the West Bank earlier this month -- the first since 1989 -- which saw a raft of new leaders elected to key positions.

The poll found that if Marwan Barghuti -- a popular Fatah leader elected to the party's governing body -- were to run for president he would win 62 percent of the vote compared with 31 percent for Haniya.

Barghuti, who helped mastermind the 2000 Palestinian uprising, is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for his role in deadly attacks.

Abbas has said that he plans to call a general election in January 2010 at the end of the mandate of the current Hamas-dominated legislature.

After 18 months of uneasy coexistence, Hamas violently ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip when it seized power in the coastal enclave in June 2007. The last two years have seen several failed attempts at reconciliation.

The poll was carried out August 13-15 in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip and surveyed 1,270 people in 127 separate locations. It had a margin of error of 3 percent.


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