Barghouthi leads Palestinian election poll amid fears of delay
Palestinians are due to vote in legislative elections on 22 May and in presidential elections on 31 July.
A new poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, in cooperation with the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, gave the Barghouthi the lead in the presidential vote, who has been campaigning from an Israeli jail cell.
More than 35 percent said they would vote for Barghouthi, while 24.5 percent would vote for Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh trailed the pack with 10.5 percent of the vote.
Despite serving consecutive life sentences, 60.2 percent of those polled supported Barghouthi's bid to become president while 19.3 percent opposed the idea.
But projections also suggest that the Freedom List, headed by diplomat and nephew of Yasser Arafat, Nasser Al-Qudwa - and including Marwan Barghouthi - trails in the polls with just 13 percent of the vote.
The list headed by Fatah leader and former Nablus Governor Mahmoud Aloul leads with 25.3 percent of the vote.
It comes as Palestinian leaders are set to meet amid speculation that the upcoming elections, the first in 15 years, will be postponed due to Israel's refusal to allow voting in occupied East Jerusalem.
The leaders of the Palestinian factions are due to meet in the West Bank to discuss the elections and any potential delay to voting.
"There will be an expanded meeting of the leadership to assess the situation. As part of that assessment, we will make a decision regarding the elections," said Ahmad Majdalani, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official, in a statement to Voice of Palestine.
In recent days, reports have suggested that President Abbas could seek to delay the election with officials saying they would reject any election that does not include voting in East Jerusalem.
According to Majdalani, upcoming talks will "crystallise a national consensus position that rejects elections without Jerusalem, because holding them without Jerusalem means surrendering to 'the deal of the century'".
"No Palestinian would accept the bartering of Jerusalem for the election. Jerusalem is a national cause. It is not a technical matter," he added.
Majdalani accused the US of not applying the same pressure on Israel on the issue as it did in 2006.
"Right now, the pressures are not as they ought to be, especially those of the US administration, which played an important role in the 2006 elections," he said.
In lieu of pressure from the US, the Palestinians are turning to the EU for support.
Palestine's ambassador to the EU, Abdel Rahim Al-Farra, noted that EU officials have voiced their rejection of Israeli obstacles to the election in addition to calls by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell for Israel to clear barriers to elections.
"The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg has placed the issue of obstructing the elections on the agenda of the next meeting of foreign ministers of the European Union, which is scheduled to be held on 10 May," said Al-Farra.
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission said on Monday that if Israel did prevent Palestinians in East Jerusalem from voting most residents would still be able to cast their ballots at polling stations on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
The prospect of elections being delayed has opened Abbas up to criticism from both Fatah and Hamas members.
"The Palestinian Authority is besieged. There's international pressure, Israeli pressure. The current leadership is totally powerless, and I expect there will be a popular response rejecting the decision [should the elections be canceled]," Serhan Dweikat, who is running on the same list as Barghouthi told The Times of Israel.
Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said Wednesday that any attempt to postpone the election due to Israeli interference would be tantamount to capitulation.
"The Palestinian elections are a national right which must be achieved. The elections in Jerusalem are a battle with the occupation, much like the rest of the battles in which we have imposed our will against the occupier. The decision on the electoral process should in no way be the decision of the occupiers," he said.