In an exclusive interview with Aljazeera.net, Hasan Yusuf said it would be futile and inexpedient for the movement to adopt a passive role in the elections.
"This is a crucial phase of our national struggle, and taking a passive or indifferent stance towards the elections undermines the interests of both the Palestinian people and the Islamic movement," he told Aljazeera.net on Saturday.
Yusuf said it was only logical that Hamas would chose the best possible, or least disagreeable, candidate.
"If a candidate declares that he is committed to true democracy, and if he pledges to defend the paramount issues such as Jerusalemfavo, the refugees, then it will be foolish not to support him," he said.
"Not supporting him would only help other candidates who might compromise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."
Yusuf was released from an Israeli prison on Thursday after serving 28 months of administrative internment for his role as Hamas spokesman in the central West Bank.
Yusuf dismissed the PA stance that, according to the law, a presidential election must take place within 60 days from the time the president of the PA dies or is declared senile or unable to perform his constitutional powers.
Hamas is keen on full elections
and not just presidential polls
"Is this law a Quranic injunction? The term of the legislative council expired four years ago, but the council is still functioning, and nobody is invoking the law."
Yusuf voiced worries that the PA may be seeking to create a "new dictatorship" to replace the "autocracy" of the late Yasir Arafat's leadership.
"They should demonstrate their commitment to democracy by designating a date for legislative and local elections," he said. "I don't understand why they are afraid to do so."
Candidates come forward
The moderate Islamist leader said he had already been contacted by a number of potential candidates who, he said, expressed their inclination to work with Hamas for the purpose of promoting a credible candidate for president.
Yusuf, however, said he was strongly opposed to Hamas taking the leadership seat because this would harm the interests of the Palestinian people.
"If Hamas assumed the leadership at this time, it would be vilified and isolated by the international community, and then the people would suffer," he said.
"Therefore, Hamas wants to be in a position where it can influence the leadership through the democratic process."
Asked if he was optimistic about the future following the death of Arafat, Yusuf said Palestinians had no choice but to be optimistic.
"We can't be pessimistic. We are actually optimistic because the Palestinian cause is now topping the international agenda and the entire world is coming to terms with the fact that there can be no peace or stability in this world without a just resolution of the Palestinian question."
The Palestinian issue is now at
the top of the news agenda
Yusuf accused the Israeli government of diversionary tactics. "It always seeks to divert attention from the fundamental issues, namely their occupation of our homeland and persecution of our people," he said.
"They always invent things to escape responsibility and distract attention from the root cause, the occupation.
"When Arafat was alive, they said he was the problem, and if only he died or was killed, everything would be fine," Yusuf said.
"Now they are coming up with the issue of incitement, ignoring the fact that the real source of incitement against them is their daily crimes against our people.
Yusuf said, "Don't they engage in incitement against us? When will they stop teaching their kids that non-Jews are animals and that their lives have no sanctity? When will they outlaw all these computer games which teach Israeli children the most efficient ways to kill an Arab?"
Yusuf said Hamas would be willing and ready to observe a ceasefire with Israel if the latter met two conditions.
"First, Israel must stop all attacks on Palestinian civilians, including assassinations, and, second, release all Palestinian prisoners and detainees."