Marwan Barghouti
Marwan Barghouti in 2003. Photo by Uriel Sinai
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If elections for Palestinian president were held today, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti would win, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.

The poll, prepared by the NGO's president and founder Dr. Nabil Kukali, covered a random sample of 1,015 Palestinian respondents living throughout the Palestinian territories.

Israel arrested Barghouti at the height of the second intifada in 2002, convicted him for murder and handed down five life sentences.

According to the poll, Barghouti would defeat Ismael Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, hands down, 49.7% to 16.0%. He would also crush Khaled Meshal, the chairman Hamas, 51.0% to 16.2%. If he were to face Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Barghouti would still win but by a smaller margin – 33.2% to 26.9%.

Abbas, by the way, would also beat Haniyeh by a comfortable margin, according to the poll.

"It is time that Mr. Barghouti should be released from prison to give him the opportunity to candidate for the next presidential elections,” Dr. Kukali stated in wake of the poll.

The popularity of Barghouti, who reportedly wields a lot of influence from inside prison, seems to have increased over time. While in a similar poll in 2012 by the NGO, Barghouti was preferred 60% to 34% over Haniyeh, in 2007 he came in third in a hypothetical three-way race with Abbas and Haniyeh.