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‘Palestinians favour Barghouthi as Abbas successor’

By Reuters - Jul 05,2018 - Last updated at Jul 05,2018

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Marwan Barghouthi, a Palestinian uprising leader jailed for life by Israel, would win most votes if an election were held to find a successor for 82-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas, a survey released on Wednesday found.

The poll was conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), which interviewed 2,150 adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Thirty per cent of respondents named Barghouthi, a member of Abbas' Fateh faction whom an Israeli court handed five life sentenced for murder in 2004, as their favourite to replace the president.

Israel accuses Barghouthi, 59, of masterminding attacks by Fateh's armed wing, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Seen as a pragmatist, he enjoys strong grassroots support and has good relations with all factions, including with Islamist group Hamas. 

The next most popular candidate was Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Islamist faction Hamas, with 23 per cent support.

Questions about Abbas’ prospects were raised by his eight-day hospitalisation in May for what officials said was a lung infection. 

Wednesday’s poll found that 61 per cent of the public want Abbas to resign and 33 per cent want him to stay in office. 

Abbas became president in 2005 after the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and pursued US-led peace talks with Israel. But many Palestinians lost faith in him as his efforts yielded no gains and talks stalled in 2014.

Abbas’ democratic mandate expired nine years ago, with no new elections set due to a Fateh-Hamas power struggle that has been exacerbated by Israeli controls on the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Trailing Barghouthi and Haniyeh as mooted Abbas successors were Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and former Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan with 6 per cent support each, West Bank activist Mustafa Barghouthi and former Hamas chief Khaled Mishaal (3 per cent each), and ex-finance minister Salam Fayyad (2 per cent).

The PCPSR poll found that 48 per cent of Palestinians believe that, post-Abbas, rival factions would be able to agree on a new election; 41 per cent said they did not believe this.

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