The majority of Palestinians would vote for Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader jailed in Israel for a spate of suicide bombings, for president, a Palestinian Center for Public Opinion poll released this week found.
Following the reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas earlier this month, 80.6 percent of Palestinians believe presidential elections will be held within six months of the formation of the new unity government.
When presented with the choice of either Barghouti or Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, 49.7 percent preferred Barghouti, 16 percent said they would vote for Haniyeh and 25.6 percent said they wouldn't participate in the elections if these were their options.
When presented with the choice of either Barghouti or current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 33.2 percent said they would vote for Barghouti, while only 26.9 percent said they would vote for Abbas and 30.7 percent said they'd refrain from voting.
When presented with a choice between Barghouti and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, over half of the respondents (51 percent) opted for Barghouti, while 16.2 percent said they would vote for Mashaal and 25.1 percent said they wouldn't go out to the polls.
Finally, when the two choices were Abbas or Haniyeh, 44.3 percent said they would support the PA president, and only 17.6 percent would support the Hamas prime minister. 30.7 percent said they would not vote in such a case.
Marwan Barghouti at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
An Israeli court sentenced Barghouti to five life sentences and 40 years in jail in 2004, finding him guilty of orchestrating ambushes and suicide attacks during the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, that was raging at the time.
Barghouti, now 54, has always denied the charges and he remains a highly popular figure among ordinary Palestinians, portrayed by his supporters as a Nelson Mandela-like figure who could galvanise and reunite their divided political landscape.
The poll was conducted from May 5-15, 2014 and covered a random sample of 1015 Palestinian respondents over the age of 18 living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The survey was conducted in respondents' homes, face-to-face. The margin of error was ±3.07 percent.
Reuters contributed to this report.