Franco Debono will not be running for leader of the Nationalist Party, the former MP said on Friday.

“I do not think this is the right moment to run for any leadership posts within the party,” Debono said in a video posted on Facebook.

“I will now be looking at how I can convey the many messages of support I’ve received to the people who need to hear them”.

Debono wished the two candidates who have said they are running - incumbent Adrian Delia and political outsider Bernard Grech - all the best in the upcoming contest.

"The party needs everyone if it is to be a strong and united opposition offering a credible alternative to government," he said. 

Debono served as a PN MP in the 2008-2013 legislature but ended that term after a series of clashes with then-party leader Lawrence Gonzi and then-Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici.  

He was one of three people which the PN had barred from contesting the 2013 general election on its ticket and he has not contested an election since then.

Debono had, in recent days, hinted at a leadership run in the upcoming PN race, sharing several messages of support he was receiving from purported PN members.

Debono publishes survey about voter sentiment

In his video message announcing his decision not to run, Debono shared a link to a survey he commissioned about his leadership prospects.

The survey showed that 42.9% of respondents said they wanted to see Debono run for the PN leadership, versus 35.4% who said they did not want him to run and 21.8% of undecided respondents.

Most PN voters said they were not in favour of Debono running for party leader.Most PN voters said they were not in favour of Debono running for party leader.

But when only respondents who voted PN at least once during the past three general elections were polled, those numbers were flipped: 38.4% said they wanted to see Debono run, while 47.8% said they were opposed and 13.8% said they were undecided.

PN voters were more open to the idea of Debono running for another leadership post within the party, such as deputy leader: 47.2% said they liked the idea, versus 41.5% who said they did not and 11.4% who were undecided.

The survey, however, indicated that Debono would have fared better than PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia – who until Thursday was touted as the favourite to run against incumbent Adrian Delia – in an eventual race. Delia, however, bested them both.

Debono polled behind Delia but ahead of Comodini Cachia among respondents.Debono polled behind Delia but ahead of Comodini Cachia among respondents.

Debono was also the person most often cited by respondents when they were asked to name three people not active within the PN today but who could help the party reorganise itself.

28% of respondents mentioned the former MP and practising lawyer – a full 10 percentage points more than the second-most cited name, Lawrence Gonzi.

Debono also outpolled his former district rival Louis Galea when respondents were asked which of the two men they trusted to renew the PN. Galea recently concluded a one-year project to reform the party. 

A large majority of PN voters also indicated that they believed Debono was right in his critiques and proposals when a PN MP: when undecided respondents were excluded, 70.9% of such respondents said the former MP was right, while 29.1% said he was not. Similarly, 75.6% of PN voters said they believed Debono should have been given more space to work during the Gonzi administration.

The survey, based on a sample of 500 respondents, was held between August 3 and 6, and had a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interva, of +/- 4.4%. It was carried out by statistician Vincent Marmara.  

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