The controversial former aide to Nigel Farage has withdrawn from Ukip's leadership race just hours before the final candidates are due to be confirmed.
Raheem Kassam was one of the first candidates to enter the race to succeed the party's leader of just 18 days, Diane James.
But he has today pulled out of the contest, complaining of "disgraceful treatment" by the media, and warning that the party is treating the contest "like a coronation".
Specifically, Kassam claimed that Ukip MEPs were using party databases to campaign against him. Party MEPs include leadership favourite Paul Nuttall.
It comes just days after Kassam secured the support of Ukip donor Arron Banks, who bankrolled much of the Leave.EU campaign during the Brexit referendum.
However, Kassam has garnered substantial attention in recent weeks for his controversial online profile.
In particular, he has faced questions over a number of tweets, including criticism of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, of whom he said: “Can someone just, like … tape Nicola Sturgeon’s mouth shut? And her legs, so she can’t reproduce.”
He is not the first candidate to have dropped out of the leadership race – one-time favourite Steven Woolfe quit the party altogether after an altercation with a fellow party member at the European Parliament.
Kassam has thrown his weight behind former Ukip London mayoral candidate Peter Whittle.
Ukip's only MP and Suzanne Evans supporter, Douglas Carswell, responded to the announcement on Twitter.
There are now four candidates to succeed Farage, with a final list due to be confirmed later today – Nuttall, Whittle, former deputy chair Suzanne Evans and former parliamentary candidate John Rees-Evans.