The New Zealand Public Party (NZPP) is "not severing its relationship with Advance NZ" by ending its political alliance, leader Billy Te Kahika Jr says - but rather just "restoring its autonomy".
Te Kahika Jr became co-leader of the Jami-Lee Ross's Advance NZ ahead of the 2020 election campaign, with the pair hoping to combine their followings to get a party vote above the 5 percent threshold required to get into Parliament.
But they endured a horror election night, registering just 20,841 votes - about 0.9 percent. The result ensures the party will have no influence in New Zealand's halls of power over the next three years.
On Monday morning, Ross announced Te Kahika Jr had decided to step away from Advance NZ, telling Newshub his former co-leader "wants to do his own thing" and that the decision had been swift.
In a statement sent to media on Monday afternoon, the NZPP confirmed the decision.
It said it would now be "getting back to doing what we do best", which it says is "researching topics that the Government is not transparent about".
Te Kahika Jr acknowledged the political opportunity Advance NZ offered prior to the election, and said it would "always have our support going forward".
"I will still maintain strong respect and friendship with Jami-Lee Ross and we will still work together on common goals where needed," he said.
But the NZPP says it was always its intention to split from Advance NZ when the election was over.
"Returning NZPP to its own path forward is not a new idea, and was discussed prior to and during the election campaign," a spokesperson said.
"We have a busy three years ahead of us and look forward to this next exciting chapter of our movement. We wish Jami-Lee Ross much aroha and we will continue to support him on his journey where needed.
"NZPP is clear that its leader is not stepping down, and it is not severing its relationship with Advance NZ. It is simply restoring its autonomy."
Te Kahika Jr, a blues musician, very quickly gathered a thousands-strong online following earlier this year thanks to a blend of anti-establishment rhetoric and peddling of conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID-19.
The policies of the NZPP, which joined forces with Advance NZ a few months before the election, include a promise to restore government integrity, investigate any UN agendas, and look into the use of 1080 and 5G technology.
But come election night, Advance NZ failed to make much of an impression - and neither did he, finishing fourth in the Māori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, which was comprehensively won by Labour MP Kelvin Davis.
In an outlandish video posted to social media after the election, Te Kahika Jr claimed the election was "rigged", and that Advance NZ's tiny share of the preliminary votes showed it had been "diddled".
"I'm all okay with not going into Parliament and not winning enough votes - but not [okay] with 1 percent. I've been saying all week that if they turn around and say we've only got 1 percent then we've been diddled," he said.
"People are waking up very, very quickly to the idea that this Government and this whole system is corrupt - it's not real."
In one particularly bizarre segment, he said he feared many Advance NZ votes had not been counted because some had left "little comments or smiley faces" on their voting forms.
However the Electoral Commission last week rubbished Te Kahika Jr's claims.
"If a voter has written a comment or drawn a smiley face, it will not disqualify the vote. Votes will be counted if the voter's intentions are clear," a spokesperson said.
"New Zealand has a robust and transparent electoral system with many checks and balances. The process for counting votes is thorough and careful.
"It is subject to independent scrutiny from candidate and party scrutineers, Justices of the Peace, and the judiciary if there are recounts or electoral petitions."