Al-Barghuthi, who was speaking to Aljazeera from an Israeli prison, heads the candidate list of the mainstream Fatah faction.

 

Fatah, the party of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, faces a strong challenge from its Islamist rival, Hamas, which is running in a parliamentary election for the first time on Wednesday.

 

Al-Barghuthi, 46, urged Palestinians not to focus on whether Fatah defeats Hamas.

 

"We should not think that the aim of 25th of January is the seats," al-Barghuthi said. "There is an upcoming aim we should be prepared for: A broad national reform government with the participation of all."

 

Hamas's popularity with the Palestinians has grown largely due to its charity work in Gaza and the West Bank, and it has a corruption-free image in contrast to Fatah.

 

Israel has long rejected any dialogue with Hamas and Israeli officials say a big win by Hamas on Wednesday would cast serious doubt on the future of peace talks.


Peace efforts have largely been put on hold by the Palestinian poll and a
forthcoming Israeli national election on March 28. Both sides have also accused the other of failing to meet their obligations under a US-backed "road map" to peace.


Al-Barghuthi is serving five life sentences
for his involvement in attacks against Israel during the uprising. He considers his trial in Israeli courts illegal and denies the charges.

 

Possible successor

 

Tipped as a possible successor to Abbas, he called on Israel to end its military rule of the West Bank, where Palestinians seek to build a state in land Israel captured in 1967.

 

"I urge the Israeli people to realise that there is no future for this occupation," he said. "This occupation is a burden. They
should get rid of this burden."

 

In a direct appeal to the Palestinian electorate, he said: "From my cell, I appeal to the great Palestinian people, young and old, to take part in these elections."

 

He said the elections "should be seen as one of the essential means of achieving freedom, the return [home of Palestinian refugees] and independence".

  

Al-Barghuthi is one of around 30 candidates in Israeli prisons. Hassan Yussef, Hamas's leader in the West Bank, is another inmate.

 

"The Palestinian people need a national salvation government, a government of national unity"

Marwan al-Barghuthi

 

Al-Barghuthi hailed the "brave and courageous decision by our brothers in Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other factions which accepted to join the Palestinian Authority by participating in the elections".

 

"The Palestinian people need a national salvation government, a government of national unity," he said.

 

Al-Barghuti praised members of
Hamas and other factions

Al-Barghuti said the results of the elections will be respected "100 per cent", even in the event of a victory for Hamas, which will become "an indissociable part of the Palestinian Authority".

 

The new government should be "firm ... in imposing law and order," he said, denouncing the chaos in the Palestinian territories as well as armed clashes among Palestinians.

 

"What happened was shameful and harms the image of the resistance ... the role of this rifle is to protect the Palestinian people and not be pointed at it."

 

He called on Palestinian security services to "protect the elections and ballot boxes," while urging opposition militants to be "the protection shield of these elections".