A new poll shows 72 percent of Palestinians plan to vote in elections taking place in three weeks, but supporters of Hamas are much less likely to participate in the vote, which is being boycotted by the party.
In a poll published on Saturday by the Arab World for Research & Development, 85 percent said they support holding local elections, which will take place on Oct. 20 in the West Bank only.
The election is the first time Palestinians will have the opportunity to cast votes since 2006, after Hamas and Fatah split violently a year later.
While a 2011 reconciliation deal envisaged fresh elections, in July Hamas called off electoral registration in Gaza at the last minute, citing repression of its West Bank members, and slammed Abbas’ Fatah-dominated government when it said it would proceed with the vote.
The AWRAD poll found that 88 percent of Fatah supporters intend to vote, while only 54 percent of Hamas supporters say they will, and 56 percent of unaffiliated voters.
The largest proportion of people planning to vote who say they support Fatah is in Jenin at 67 percent, where the largest proportion of voters supporting Hamas is in Hebron at 17 percent.
Hebron also has the lowest expected turnout at 62 percent, while the highest is in Ramallah, where 81 percent plan to vote.
Lack of knowledge about the composition of electoral lists and their agenda, unfamiliarity with the candidates, and expectations of fraud and corruption were the top reported reasons for not participating.
The survey found only 38 percent like the current list system, while 50 percent would prefer a system that allows for the election of individual candidates.
Local councils in the West Bank will be elected using proportional representation, after a party reaches the threshold of 8 percent of votes. Rights activists have expressed alarm that 200 out of the 353 electorates in the West Bank will not be contested because only one list of candidates has been put forward.
A majority in the West Bank, 54 percent, are dissatisfied with their current local council, and the highest dissatisfaction is in Jenin at 78 percent.
The last round of local elections in the West Bank and Gaza were held in phases between 2004 and 2005.
Most voters told AWRAD their top priority was the encouragement of economic investment and job creation, followed by lower fees for services, better health services, youth opportunities, schools and equal access to services regardless of family or party affiliations.
Recent demonstrations in the West Bank against the rising cost of living were unlikely to impact the election, with 85 percent saying they would have no effect on the way they vote.
The most important criteria for a political candidate was personal reputation and ethics, with 94 percent saying this was very important. Next in importance, at 90 percent, was being in touch with people’s needs, followed by professional competence at 80 percent.
For 46 percent of voters, a candidate’s support for women’s rights is seen as crucial, while 43 percent highly value religiosity.
Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas is the most respected leader to 39 percent of voters, the survey shows, followed by Hamas prime minister in Gaza at 14 percent. However 29 percent declined to name a Palestinian leader they respect.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Abbas insisted that elections would go forward as planned, but he emphasized they would not serve as a substitute for reconciliation with Hamas.
“Our people will continue to build the institutions of their state and will continue to strive to achieve national reconciliation to restore the unity of our nation, people and institutions via resorting to the ballot boxes, which will confirm our people’s pluralistic democratic choice,” Abbas told a UN summit in New York.
AWRAD interviewed 1,304 Palestinians in six major West Bank cities between Sept. 21-23, 2012 for the poll. The margin of error is 2.5 percent.