Hamas would win the upcoming Palestinian elections with 31.4 percent of the vote were they held today, according to a poll conducted by al-Najah University.
The survey also found the new breakaway Fatah faction led by jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti would win 26.8 percent of the vote, while the Fatah list headed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas would only reach third place, with 17.7 percent of the vote.
These figures, which represent a significant embarrassment for Fatah, are especially relevant at this time, ahead of the Palestinian High Court's pending decision on whether to allow Fatah to reopen its party lists so that it can unify them.
If Fatah's merger request is rejected, Fatah may lose the Palestinian elections, and the Palestinian parliament could be taken over by Hamas.
The statistics also show that the Third Way party list, headed by PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad and Hanan Ashrawi, would win 4.7 percent of votes. Meanwhile, the Independent Party, headed by former leadership candidate Dr. Mustafa al-Barghouti, is projected to take 10 percent of the vote.
Despite reports warning of an elections delay, 62 percent of respondents said they believe the elections would take as scheduled, on January 25. Some 58 percent said they thought the elections would be democratic and fair, while 31 percent believed the opposite would be true.
83 percent planning to vote
A total of 57 percent of respondents said the security situation would allow elections to go ahead on time, while 36 percent disagreed.
Of those asked, 66 percent said it would be vital to have international monitors scrutinize the elections, and 83 percent said they were planning on voting.
The survey's results will only serve to strengthen elements in Fatah who wish to delay the elections until the two lists are unified. Reports again surfaced on Monday of Palestinian Authority plans to ask the Egyptians, either directly or through low-rank contacts, to intervene in attempting to get the elections delayed, despite repeated statements by Abbas that the elections would take place on time.
If the High Court does not grant Fatah's request for a merger of the lists, Fatah officials are expected to turn to Hamas with a request to delay the elections.
Another obstacle facing the Palestinian elections can be found in reports that Israel will not allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to take part in the elections, if Hamas participates.
PA officials, including Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, repeatedly warned that elections would not take place if the ban was not lifted.
With that, some elements in the PA who support a delay in elections are grateful for the Israeli ban, which would provide a pretext for pushing the elections back.
Those who support a delay fear a strengthening of Hamas, and a weakening of the influence of veteran Fatah members in the Palestinian Authority.