Top Palestinian candidates tied, 2 polls show

Third poll shows Abbas leading Barghouti in race

December 07, 2004|By Joel Greenberg | Joel Greenberg,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

JERUSALEM - Two opinion polls published yesterday showed a tight race for Palestinian Authority president between Mahmoud Abbas, the new leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and his main challenger, Marwan Barghouti, a jailed leader of the Palestinian uprising. A third poll showed Abbas winning.

The polls confirmed that Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail, has turned what was an almost certain victory for Abbas into what appears to be a hard-fought contest.

Abbas, a relative moderate who has criticized the armed uprising, was chosen by Fatah, the dominant Palestinian political group, as its candidate in the Jan. 9 election.

Barghouti's entry into the race last week was denounced by Fatah leaders as divisive, but he enjoys strong grass-roots support among young militants. Yesterday, Fatah threatened to strip Barghouti of his membership if he continues his bid for the presidency.

All three polls showed increased support for Fatah with the militant Islamic group Hamas losing popularity.

The polls had a 3 percent margin of error.

A poll published by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed Abbas with the support of 40 percent of respondents, and Barghouti with 38 percent. The poll surveyed 1,320 voters.

Voters surveyed said they thought Abbas was the most capable of reaching a peace agreement with Israel, improving economic conditions and enforcing law and order. Barghouti was seen as most likely to uphold the Palestinian claim for refugees' right to return to former places of residence now in Israel.

A poll by Bir Zeit University in the West Bank showed 35 percent support for Barghouti and 34 percent for Abbas. It surveyed 1,198 people.

A poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, which questioned 997 voters, showed 40 percent supported Abbas and 22 percent backed Barghouti.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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