1963 Singaporean general election
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General elections were held in Singapore on 21 September 1963, five days after the merger with Malaysia. The elections saw the Malaysian ruling party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), backed with Singapore Alliance Party (SAP) in an attempt to oust the People's Action Party (PAP), after violating previous agreement not to do so and a highlight in the relations between UMNO and the PAP. However, the result was a victory for the PAP, which won 37 of the 51 seats in the Singapore Legislative Assembly.
All 51 seats to the Legislative Assembly
26 seats needed for a majority
As Singapore gained independence in 1965, this election was the only election which was held as a state of Malaysia. After independence, the elected members of the Legislative Assembly would then became Members of the inaugural Parliament of Singapore.
Although the People's Action Party (PAP) had won 43 seats in the 1959 elections, they lost four seats in 1961 (two were from the by-election defeats, and two were defected to the new United People's Party (UPP)). A further 13 legislators were expelled from PAP for voting against the government in a no-confidence motion on 20 July 1961; the dissidents subsequently formed a new party, the Barisan Sosialis (BS), alleging PAP as a communist front. The combination of by-election defeats, defections and expulsions reduced the PAP by 17 seats down to 26, leaving PAP with a one-seat majority.
On 3 July 1962, while the integration referendum debate was in procession, PAP lost its majority following the resignation of legislator Ho Puay Choo (who later joined BS on 11 August). Five days later, UPP legislator S. V. Lingam returned to PAP fold, giving it back its one-seat majority, but five days later, PAP lost its majority again after health minister Ahmad Ibrahim died from liver cancer. BS initially planned to field its iconic leader, Lim Chin Siong, in the vacated seat, but the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew opted against a by-election, and instead called a fresh election.
On 31 August 1963, Singapore was declared independent with PAP declared as trustees until the merger with Malaysia could be complete. On 3 September, Lee dissolved the Legislative Assembly in accordance with procedure, and called for elections to be held on 21 September.
The 51 members of the Singapore Legislative Assembly were elected in 51 single-member constituencies under the first-past-the-post system. This is the only election to date with no boundary changes to any of the constituencies.
|Tuesday 3 September||Dissolution of the 2nd Legislative Assembly|
|Saturday 12 September||Nomination Day; 210 candidates nominated to contest 51 seats|
|Saturday 21 September||Polling day|
|Tuesday 22 October||First meeting of the 3rd Legislative Assembly|
The elections, held in the midst of Singapore's merger with Malaysia, are remembered as the PAP's most hard-fought election, as the party fielded a full slate and faced intensive challenges from three components that did nearly the same. BS collated with Parti Rakyat, and fielded candidates in all but two seats, while UPP had an unusual large number of candidates. The PAP government launched Operation Coldstore on 2 February 1963 and detained several BS leaders, including Lim.
On the final night of campaigning, PAP officials warned that should BS win the election and defeat PAP, the Malaysia Federal government could send troops into Singapore to invoke emergency powers in place of the incoming government led by the new pro-communist party, leaving no opportunity for BS to respond. This was said to have accounted for the eventual victory of the PAP the following day.
The sole Workers' Party (WP) legislator David Marshall resigned from the party he founded and became the only independent. Another participant was Singapore Alliance, an extension of the ruling federal Alliance Party in Malaysia, which was a coalition consisting of the Singapore People's Alliance (SPA) along with the local branches of UMNO, the Malayan Chinese Association and Malayan Indian Congress. However, former Chief Minister and leader Lim Yew Hock opted not to run in the elections, citing a defamation campaign by the PAP.
|People's Action Party||272,924||46.9||37||−6|
|United People's Party||48,785||8.4||1||+1|
|Pan-Malayan Islamic Party||1,545||0.3||0||0|
|United Democratic Party||760||0.1||0||New|
|Source: Singapore Elections|
In the end, PAP managed to eke out an election victory with a two-thirds majority, an outcome which had been in doubt or unexpected in the lead-up to the vote; however, PAP received their lowest-ever vote share with just under 47% of the popular vote, a vote swing of almost negative 7% from 1959.
Despite BS and UPP won a combined 14 seats (13 and one respectively), both parties failed to win most of the seats they contested, due to the split in the anti-PAP vote between the oppositions in their individual constituencies. A total of 92 candidates forfeited their deposits.
As for the Singapore Alliance which held 7 seats before dissolution, they lost all seats (even its base support from Malay constituencies like Kampong Kembangan, Geylang Serai and Southern Islands) and were left with no representation in the new Legislative Assembly.
The defeats of Kenneth Michael Bryne and Tan Kia Gan (in the seats of Crawford and Paya Lebar, respectively) marked the first time a higher-ranked PAP cabinet minister had been defeated in their constituencies. This would not happen again until the 2011 elections, 48 years or 11 elections later, where cabinet minister George Yeo was defeated in his constituency of Aljunied.
Cited factors that led to the PAP victory included  ,
- PAP's eleventh hour warning to voters that Malaysia would send troops into Singapore and invoke emergency powers in place of the incoming BS government;
- strong support among voters for Singapore's merger with Malaya, which was perceived to be jeopardised should BS win the election due to its opposition to merger;
- English-educated middle classes fearful of communism tactically voting for PAP following the split of the leftists away from the party.
- BS support for Indonesia and the Communist Party of Indonesia's opposition to the formation of Malaysia, especially when Indonesia had declared Konfrontasi and begun provocative military manoeuvres in Borneo in the lead up to the election.
- popular PAP government policies such as building of 26,000 Housing and Development Board flats, reduction in unemployment rate and investment in public services from 1959 to 1963.
In order to discourage future defections, the PAP government passed a law stipulating that legislators who resign or are expelled from the parties they were elected under would lose their seats.
By-elections were subsequently held in Hong Lim in 1965, seven constituencies in 1966 and five constituencies in 1967. Those victories resulted PAP in achieving a parliament monopoly that would last for the next 15 years until the first elected opposition MP in 1981.
- Lau, Albert (1998). A Moment of Anguish: Singapore in Malaysia and the Politics of Disengagement. Singapore: Times Academic Press. ISBN 981-210-1349.
- Sonny Yap, Richard Lim, Leong Weng Kam (2010). Men in White: The Untold Story of Singapore's Ruling Political Party. Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)