Mr Bowen’s decision means frontbencher Anthony Albanese is the only confirmed candidate at this stage, with Labor MP Jim Chalmers set to announce his decision whether to contest or not today.
After announcing his leadership bid on Tuesday, Mr Bowen has now conceded that he is unlikely to win the rank and file vote.
“I reached the conclusion that not thinking it’s really viable for me to win, it wouldn’t be fair to put the party through the cost of the process and the delay for the start of a new leader,” said Mr Bowen on Wednesday at a press conference.
“Over the last 48 hours I’ve been on the phone to colleagues. I’ve been very pleased with the response. It’s clear to me that I would have majority support in the actual caucus ballot.
“Not a big majority, but majority support with some support from the left faction as well as support from the right faction, and people that aren’t in any faction.
“But it’s also clear to me, I’m a realist, that Albo would win the rank and file for good reason. He’s a popular character. By a good margin.”
Mr Albanese said that if he was successful in his leadership bid, Mr Bowen would have a critical role to play in the party.
Mr Bowen, the architect of Labor’s tax plans, including the contentious franking credit changes, has been blamed in some quarters for Labor’s rout over the weekend.