History of General Elections in Singapore

The history of General Elections in Singapore can be traced as far back as 1948 when an election was held to elect six members to the Legislative Council. From 1948 to the last General Elections held in 2001, Singapore has experienced a total of fourteen General Elections.

General Elections in pre-independent Singapore
The history of General Elections in Singapore can be traced as far back as 1948. The purpose of the election held on 20 March 1948 was to elect six members to the Legislative Council. In this election, the Singapore Progressive Party (SPP) won three of the six seats contested while the remaining seats went to Independent candidates. The second Legislative Council election was held in March 1951. The number of seats contested in this election was increased from six to nine. The SPP won six seats while the Singapore Labour Party (SLP) won two and the last seat was won by an Independent candidate. This was followed by the 1955 elections; best known as "the first lively political contest in Singapore's history". In the election, the Labour Front won 10 out of the 25 seats while the People's Action Party (PAP), which fielded four candidates, won three seats; the Progressive Party won four seats; UMNO-MCA won three seats; the Democratic Party won two seats while three Independents won three seats respectively. David Marshall then became Singapore's first Chief Minister, with a coalition government made up of his own Labour Front, the United Malays National Organisation and the Malayan Chinese Association.

Election for the first fully elected City Council was held in December 1957. Singapore attained self-government in 1959. On 30 May 1959, a General Election was held to choose 51 representatives to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. There were a total of 10 parties and 39 independent candidates contesting, making up a total of 194 candidates. The PAP won 43 out of the 51 seats (53.4%) and came to power with Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's first Prime Minister.

In 1963, Singapore merged with Malaysia. An election was held in September 1963 to elect 51 seats for the first five years of Independence within Malaysia. There were a total of 210 candidates contesting. PAP returned 37 out of the 51 seats (46.4%); Barisan Socialis won 13 seats (32.1%) and the United People's Party won one seat.

General Elections after independence
In the 1968 General Election, there were five independent candidates and only two main parties contesting: PAP and the Workers' Party, making up a total of 65 candidates. PAP won all 58 seats and for the first time, there was a one party rule in Singapore.

For the General Election in 1972, there were a total of 138 candidates (from six parties and two Independents) vying for 57 out of the 65 contested seats. The PAP again won all 65 seats. Subsequently, for the third and fourth time, PAP had won victory for all seats in the 1976 and 1980 General Elections respectively. In 1976, PAP defeated all six opposition parties and two Independents, and won a total of 69 seats. In 1980, PAP again defeated all seven opposition parties and won a total of 75 seats for that General Election..

In 1984, PAP won 77 seats and lost the other two to Singapore Democratic Party and Workers' Party. There were a total of 130 candidates contesting for 79 seats. Then in 1988, Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) came into the General Elections scene. There were altogether 70 seats to be contested out of the 81 seats: 42 were single member and 13 GRCs. There were a total of 8 parties and 4 Independents contesting. PAP won 80 seats and lost one to the Singapore Democratic Party.

For the General Elections in 1991, there were 85 candidates vying for 40 out of the total of 81 seats. A total of six political parties and seven Independents had contested. PAP won 77 seats and lost four to opposition parties: three to Singapore Democratic Party and one to Workers' Party.

In the General Elections in 1997, there were a total of 83 seats, with 75 candidates contesting for 36 seats. There were six political parties and one Independent contesting. PAP had won 81 seats and lost two to the Workers' Party and Singapore Democratic Party.

Finally, in the last General Elections held in 2001, the PAP won 82 out of the 84 seats contested, capturing 75.3 per cent of the votes. This was the PAP's third best results after 1968's 86.7 per cent and 1980's 77.7 per cent. It gained all but two seats with Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Kiang retaining their seats in opposition in Potong Pasir and Hougang respectively. Into his 17th year of service, this elections made Chiam Singapore's longest serving opposition party. Steve Chia from the Singapore Democratic Alliance became the top loser and gained the non-constituency MP seat. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had called for a strong mandate after indicating that this would be his last General Election. A new Prime Minister is expected to take over the helm by the next elections in 2007.

Koh Lay Tin

Pugalenthii, S. R. (1996). Elections in Singapore. Singapore: VJ Times.
(Call no.: R SING 324.63095957 PUG)

Zuraidah Ibrahim. (2001, November 4). 75.3% -- Resounding win for PAP. The Straits Times, p. 1.

Ministry of Information,Communications and the Arts. (2004). Singapore InfoMap. Nation's history: Towards self-government. Retrieved December 28, 2004, from www.sg/explore/history_towards.htm

Elections Department of Singapore. (n.d.). History of Singapore elections. Retrieved May 30, 2003, from www.elections.gov.sg/history/History.html

Further Readings
Bilveer Singh. (1992). Whither PAP's dominance?: An analysis of Singapore's 1991 general elections. Petaling Jaya: Pelanduk Publications.
(Call no.: SING 324.95957 BIL) 

Da Cunha, D. (1997). The price of victory: The 1997 Singapore general election and beyond. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
(Call no.: SING 324.95957 DAC)

Elections in Singapore: are they free and fair?: An open Singapore Centre report on the conduct of parliamentary elections in Singapore. (2000). Singapore: Open Singapore Centre.
(Call no.: SING 324.63095957 ELE)

Josey, A. (1968). The crucial years ahead: Republic of Singapore general election 1968. Singapore: D. Moore.
(Call no.: RSING 324.5957 JOS)

Josey, A. (1972). The Singapore general elections, 1972. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: SING 324.5957 JOS)

Kuo, E. C. Y., Holaday, D. A., & Peck, E. (1993). Mirror on the wall: Media in a Singapore election. Singapore: Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre.
(Call no.: SING 324.95957 KUO)

Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. (1988). The 1955 election, 2 April 1955 [Videotape]. Singapore: SBC.
(Call no.: RSING 324.95957 NIN) 

The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Politics and Government
Law and government>>Political process>>Elections
_Historical_Events:Legislative Council general election of Singapore, 1948
_Historical_Events:Parliamentary general election of Singapore, 1968

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