Senior National MP Gerry Brownlee won't contest the party's deputy leadership when the party votes on the matter next Tuesday.
Brownlee – who lost his long-held Ilam seat in the election – said his focus, would be on rebuilding National's base in Christchurch and representing voters there.
It comes just an hour after the special votes show that National lost two MPs and now has a caucus of 33.
The specials also show Northland, Whangārei and Maungakiekie – all held by National – were flipped by Labour.
Brownlee said he stepped into the role of deputy leader in July to "support Judith as our leader".
Judith Collins has said that it was the "hospital pass from hell".
But Brownlee said this afternoon that it was his strong view that Collins campaigned extremely well in what was an unprecedented election.
"While I was proud to step in at the time, and remain so, I've always believed that influence is more important than position when it comes to politics," he said.
"It's time to think about the three years ahead. I want Judith to have the strongest and most complementary support beside her as leader."
Meanwhile, he said New Zealand faces some challenging times ahead.
"For some time to come, coronavirus and the fallout from responding to it, along with the importance of keeping its effects away from our shores, will be the dominant activities for both the Government and Opposition."
All focus now will be on who will put their hand up for the deputy role.
As per National's constitution, there needs to be a leadership vote soon after the election.
It is expected Collins will stay on as leader.
But Brownlee's plans were always unclear and he had been reluctant to say if he planned on staying on.
The names that have been tossed about as a potential deputy include Shane Reti.
But he was dealt a blow today, with the special votes showing he lost his Whangārei seat.
As his list placing is high enough, however, he remains an MP.