Poll: Majority supports holding elections but doubt results’ integrity

PNN/ Ramallah/

Findings of the fourth quarter of 2019 show a small majority indicating optimism about the holding of legislative elections in the near future. Moreover, the poll shows that majority is in favor of holding these elections even if Israel does not allow them in East Jerusalem; in case of Israeli opposition, the public says that East Jerusalemites should vote wherever they can, in Jerusalem and outside it. The bad news however, is that half of the public believes that these upcoming elections will not be free or fair.

Furthermore, only half of the public trusts the ability of the Palestinian Election Commission (PEC) to manage the election process with integrity and less than half has confidence in the ability of the police, whether in West Bank and the PA or in the Gaza Strip under Hamas, to provide protection to the election process and the ballot boxes with integrity and without bias. Indeed, a majority believes that Hamas will not be able to conduct its election campaign in the West Bank, and Fatah in the Gaza Strip, without restrictions and interference.

These findings indicate a diminished public trust in the entire election process, due probably in part to a distrust in PEC, as indeed supported by the findings, and in the PA public institutions in both areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Worst of all, a large majority believes that if Hamas wins the elections, Fatah, in the West Bank, will not accept the outcome and if Fatah wins the elections, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, will not accept the outcome. This finding demonstrates beyond any doubt the absence of public confidence in the democratic credentials of the two major political parties, Fatah and Hamas, and raise a big question about the extent of the damage and political corruption that have been generated by the absence of democratic life and by the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 2007.

On the ability of a newly elected legitimate government to dissolve the armed groups in the Gaza Strip and collect their arms, a large majority indicates opposition to such measure. Indeed, the majority believes that protecting or keeping the arms of the armed groups has greater legitimacy than that of the electoral legitimacy of the government. These findings reveal that the public does not take the election and its legitimacy seriously (which might be an outcome of the problems identified above) and that in the absence of a viable peace process, the public puts its trust, first and foremost, in armed struggle.

Findings show that if elections take place today, Fatah would receive the biggest share of the vote, followed by Hamas, existing third parties, newly created third parties, and finally an electoral list loyal to Mohammad Dahlan. With this range of options, only a small percentage of participating votes remains undecided. Needless to say, the formation of an electoral list loyal to Dahlan will significantly weaken the size of Fatah’s share of the vote and might threaten its ability to emerge as the biggest party. This problem, unique to Fatah, can be exacerbated by its persistent lack of discipline, as demonstrated by the elections of 1996 and 2006, if, for example, other unofficial Fatah lists were formed by disgruntled senior party members who fail to make it to a realistic spot in the party’s election list. This means that Fatah might find itself competing against itself thereby ending up with greater fragmentation and great many lost votes. But the greatest threat to a Fatah electoral victory would be its failure to integrate Marwan Barghouti and his supporters in its electoral list. In such a case, as temporarily happened in the 2006 elections, he might form his own electoral list thereby splitting Fatah’s vote and insuring that Hamas would receive the greatest share of the vote.

On other domestic political issues, findings indicate that a plurality in the West Bank thinks that Hamas should have participated in the recent exchange of rocket fire between Israel and Islamic Jihad. But the situation in the Gaza Strip is different as a greater plurality thinks that Hamas’ decision of refraining from participation has been the correct decision. We also found a large majority views the decision of the PA Attorney General to seek court authorization to block Palestinian media websites as an attack on freedom of speech and therefore he should not stay in his office because he apparently does not believe in free speech. We also found an overwhelming majority supporting the PA government decision to raise the marriage age to 18 years.

Two thirds of the public view the US decision recognizing the legality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as destructive the two-state solution. A majority views the decision as destructive also to the one-state solution and that one of its outcomes will be to push Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, such as the Jordan Valley. This American position led to a significant increase in the percentage of Palestinians, standing today at three quarters, who demand that the Palestinian leadership reject the American peace plan, or the Deal of the Century, out of hand, without even looking at its substance while 70% indicate opposition to a restoration of PA dialogue with the Trump Administration.

Finally, findings show that a majority is opposed to the two-state solution, but support for it remains higher than the support for the one-state solution. They also indicate a slight increase in support for armed struggle or a return to armed intifada. It is noticeable however that a majority of the public thinks that the indictment of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu will soon lead to his removal from power. Similarly, a majority is optimistic about the ability of the US Congress to impeach President Trump and a similar majority is optimistic that he will lose the upcoming US presidential elections. This public betting on the dynamics of domestic Israeli politics and on the workings of the US Congress might be one of the reasons why we still find more public support for the two-state solution compared to other alternative solutions to the conflict with Israel.

More Details: 

(1) A new legislative election?

  • The majority supports holding elections even if Israel does not allow them in East Jerusalem
  • Only half of the public has confidence in the ability of the Palestinian Election Commission to manage the election process successfully
  • Only about half trusts the police force in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to protect to the election process with integrity and neutrality
  • About two-thirds believe that opposition parties are unable to conduct election campaigns without restrictions and interferences
  • Only 42% believe the upcoming elections will be fair and free
  • 40% expect Fatah to win and 25% expect Hamas to win the upcoming elections
  • But a large majority expects the losing party to reject the outcome of the elections
  • The majority believes that the legitimately-elected government has no right to dissolve the armed groups currently in the Gaza Strip and about two thirds do not support such a decision if one is made
  • The top priority for the elections, in the eyes of more than a third, is to unify the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

(2) Presidential elections:

  • 61% want Abbas to resign and only 37% are satisfied with his performance
  • Only 31% believe Abbas is the right presidential candidate for Fatah
  • In a presidential election, Abbas receives 49% of the vote and Haniyyeh receives 44%
  • Marwan Barghouti is the most popular: he receives 62% compared to Haniyyeh’s 34% of the popular vote

(3) Blocking websites, the justice system, the electricity crisis, the American field hospital, the Shtayyeh government, and other domestic conditions:

  • 60% of the public reject the decision of the Palestinian Attorney General to block some media website and 53% demand his resignation
  • 54% say they are not likely to receive a fair trial in a Palestinian court and 55% think the Palestinian judiciary rules in accordance with whims and interests
  • 61% are in favor of exempting refugee camps from paying the electricity bills and want the PA to cover the cost
  • 36% support the building of the American field hospital along the Gaza borders with Israel
  • 31% are interested in emigrating from the Gaza Strip and 20% from the West Bank
  • The overwhelming majority supports the government decision to raise the marriage age to 18 years

(4) Reconciliation, Hamas and Islamic Jihad:

  • 59% are pessimistic about the prospects for reconciliation but 44% think the holding of new elections might contribute to reunifying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
  • 46% believe that chances for a Hamas-Israel long term cessation of violence or hudna is medium or high
  • 39% believe that Hamas should have participated in the rocket exchange against Israel in the latest wave of violence in the Gaza Strip

(5) US declaration of settlements’ legality, the Trump peace plan, and Trump impeachment:

  • Two thirds believe the US decision declaring Israeli settlements legal under international law will destroy the two-state solution and three quarters believe it will lead to an Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories
  • 85% believe the Trump peace plan will not end the Israeli occupation and allows the annexation of Palestinian territories
  • About three quarters reject the Trump peace plan regardless of its content
  • 69% oppose the resumption of Palestinian-American dialogue and 60% expect Trump to lose the upcoming American presidential elections

(6) The peace process:

  • 42% support the two-state solution but 61% view it as unfeasible due to Israeli settlement expansion
  • To end the occupation, 47% view armed struggle as the most effective means, but 26% select negotiations and 20% select non-violent resistance

(7) Arab uprisings, Turkish incursion into Syria, and visit of Saudi football team:

  • The majority looks positively as the uprisings in the Arab world today but the majority is opposed to spreading it to Palestine
  • 63% encourage Arab visits, such as the visit of the Saudi football team to Palestine

This poll has been conducted in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Ramallah