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Abbas, Haniyeh tied in popularity poll

Mahmoud Abbas and his top Hamas rival are equally popular among Palestinians, a survey found.

According to the Jerusalem Media & Communications Center poll released this week, if the Palestinian Authority were to hold presidential elections now, Abbas, the incumbent, would get 20.6 percent of votes. Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader who was prime minister in the government Abbas dissolved after the June civil war in the Gaza Strip, would get 18.8 percent of votes.

The survey, which had 1,199 respondents and a 3 percent margin of error, suggested that despite Palestinian rancor over Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza, political sympathies remain evenly divided.

But in a possible boost for Abbas’s Fatah faction, which is more moderate than Hamas, the poll found that 16.6 percent of Palestinians would vote for Marwan Barghouti as president.

Barghouti, a charismatic Fatah lawmaker jailed for life by Israel for involvement in terrorist attacks, is widely touted as a successor to Abbas. Given Barghouti’s continued calls for Palestinians to coexist with the Jewish state, there has been mounting speculation that Israel could free him in a bid to undercut Hamas’s hardline appeal.

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