Marwan Barghouti
Marwan BarghoutiFlash 90

One of the first Arab opinion polls released ahead of the Fatah-Hamas unity government planned to be announced next week has found revealing results: jailed arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti is the favorite contender for president.

The poll, was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) among 1015 residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza with a 3% margin of error. 

Barghouti is currently serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role planning numerous deadly terrorist attacks. The poll found that if he was free, he would enjoy an advantage in the race for president, regardless of who he was matched against.

When posed against Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, 33% said they would vote for Barghouti with 29% going for Abbas. Likewise, when compared against Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Barghouti bagged almost 50%, with Haniyeh at a mere 16%.

PCPO president and founder Nabil Kukali, ignoring Barghouti's lethal terrorism, remarked "it's time that Mr. Barghouti should be released from prison to give him the opportunity to contest the elections."

Abbas in March demanded Barghouti's release as a condition of the peace talks, in what was speculated as indicating that Abbas, whose term in office ended in January 2009, saw the arch-terrorist as his successor.

The poll also compared Fatah, the faction of Abbas and Barghouti, and Hamas, which violently forced Fatah out of Gaza in 2007.

According to the results Fatah would get 39% of the vote, with Hamas far behind at 15%. 80% of respondents felt elections would "certainly" or "likely" be held within six months of the unity government's formation.

What impact the vote has remains to be seen, as Abbas has claimed that Hamas will not be a part of the new unity government, while Hamas has been adamant over its full control of the new government.