Poll: 68% of Palestinians Want Early Elections, 15% Favor Hamas

New PA government platfom drawn up by PM Salam Fayad vows to prevent use of violence in name of Islam.

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians - 68 percent - favor early legislative and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority as a solution to the current political crisis in the Palestinian Authority, a poll published Sunday has found.

The survey, conducted by the research center of al-Najjah University in Nablus, also found that if elections were held now, the Islamic Hamas movement would receive only 15.1 percent of the vote, compared to 42 percent for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

Hamas trounced Fatah in the January 2006 elections, winning a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Relations between the two movements, tense after the elections, despite the formation of a unity government in which they both participated, ruptured dramatically last month when Hamas gunmen defeated their rivals from Fatah in five days of savage fighting and took control of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas responded by dismissing the unity cabinet and installing a new one, headed by a political independent and based in the West Bank, in its place.

He also said in intends issuing a decree for new legislative and presidential elections, as a way out of the political imbroglio the PA now finds itself in.

Hamas has termed the Abbas-appointed government "illegal" and rejected the call for new elections.

According to the poll, 60.8 percent of those polled expressed concern that last months events in the Gaza Strip could be repeated in the West Bank, and 68 percent were pessimistic about the current situation in the PA.

Some 53.4 percent thought the security situation in the Gaza Strip had deteriorated since Hamas assumed control, compared to 39.9 percent who thought the opposite.

The poll surveyed 1361 people over the age of 18-years; 861 of those polled were residents of the West Bank, and 500 were Gaza residents.

The margin of error was 3 percent, while 3.4 percent refused to answer the poll's questions.

PA government platform vows to prevent violence in name of Islam A new Palestinian government platform drawn up by Prime Minister Salam Fayad pledges, in an indirect swipe at the Islamist group Hamas, to prevent the use of violence in the name of Islam.

An official English-language translation of the policy document was released on Sunday, saying that Fayad's administration would build a clear-cut strategy to "enhance the status of Islam as a religion of tolerance".

At the same time, the platform said, the government would prevent "the use of Islam to justify killings, exclusion of others and destruction," a statement clearly aimed at Hamas.

Palestinian officials on Friday confirmed that the phrases "armed struggle" and "resistance against the Israeli occupation" had been dropped from the new platform.

Hamas has rebuffed international demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence, but a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has welcomed the new language.

Fayad, a U.S.-educated economist who enjoys international respect for fighting corruption and implementing reforms, presented the platform to Abbas on Thursday.

The revision of terminology that had appeared in the platforms of the previous two Hamas-led governments coincides with a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at resuming long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Since dismissing the Hamas government after its violent takeover in June, Abbas has called for peaceful resistance to occupation and has strongly condemned the firing of rockets into Israel.

In the platform, Fayad reiterated that his government would "fully abide by bilateral and multilateral agreements signed by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian National Authority, including those signed with Israel."