01:03 GMT08 March 2021
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    Abbas cannot be blamed for all Palestinian problems, such as the ongoing "Israeli occupation" or the inner divisions between factions, says a senior PLO official. But a poll finds that the public is dissatisfied with his performance and more than 65 percent want him to relinquish power.

    With the Palestinian presidential race only half a year away, Fatah, the party that rules the West Bank, has already declared that its current leader President Mahmoud Abbas will be its sole candidate in the upcoming elections.

    But Elias Zananiri, a Ramallah-based PLO senior member, says that although no other member of Fatah is expected to announce their bid to compete with Abbas, the president himself hasn't made up his mind yet.

    Abbas to Win the Race

    Abbas is expected to take a final decision in the upcoming months, and if he does end up joining the race, Zananiri is "confident" that he will win it.

    However, a recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found that 66 percent of Palestinians wanted to see Abbas leave office, while 55 percent said the PA was a burden on the people, not an achievement.

    "President Abbas does not live on his own... but people allow themselves to blame him in person, not out of opposition but out of their deep conviction that he is the one who calls the shots, [even though] it is clear that not everything is in his hands," Zananiri says.

    In many ways, it makes sense. Abbas can hardly be the only person responsible for not putting an end to the inner divisions among Palestinians like the one that still exists between Fatah and Hamas, whose relations gave a serious crack following the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by the militants of the Islamic group in 2007.

    Nor can he bear sole responsibility for the lack of progress when it comes to resolving the decades' long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that hasn't seen any direct talks take place since 2013. 

    Reason for All Problems?

    However, he is perceived by many to be accountable for a number of domestic problems that have been crippling Palestinian society.

    Corruption seems to be one of them. The aforementioned poll found that 86 percent of those quizzed thought the PA was corrupt, as opposed to 63 percent that expressed similar feelings about the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. 

    Another major concern was the Palestinians' dire economic situation, that has only been exacerbated by the raging coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said their living conditions in the West Bank were "bad". Some 20 percent stated they were considering relocating abroad.

    Zaniniri says he is sceptical about these polls and expressed his "strong belief" in Abbas' ability to beat any other contender that would face him in the upcoming presidential race.

    Even though the final candidates are not know yet, Abbas is likely to run against such known figures as the chief of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh and Marwan Barghouti, who is serving a life sentance in an Israeli jail for his involvement in terrorist activity.

    The way it stands now, both men have good chances to win the race. 

    According to the same Palestinian poll, a face-off between Abbas, Haniyeh and Barghouti would result in the victory of the latter, with him getting nearly 50 percent of the votes in the West Bank and 30 in the coastal enclave. Abbas would only get 49 percent in total.

    "I do not deny that other potential candidates have a certain amount of popularity," says Zananiri, referring to the names that might challenge Abbas. "But they lack the publicity and the support they need to cross the threshold of becoming president... and this is why I believe Abbas' chances to secure victory are high".
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    Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Palestinian Liberation Organization, PLO, race, Mahmoud Abbas, elections, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians
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