Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has announced he is standing down from the role and says he does so with a heavy heart.

Dr Sharples said the party’s showing at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election on Saturday, in which it dropped to third place behind Mana, was a factor in the decision. The clear message he had received from people around New Zealand also played a part.

The party’s other MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, put in a bid for the male co-leadership position earlier this year and the matter was to be decided at the party’s AGM in two weeks.