The 1959 Legislative Assembly general election was held on 30 May to elect 51 members into the Legislative Assembly following the dissolution of the assembly on 31 March. This general election was to bring into effect the 1958 State of Singapore Constitution. Replacing the Rendel Constitution, which came into force on 8 February 1955, the 1958 constitution provided Singapore with the status of a self-governing state with its own Yang di-Pertuan Negara or head of state as well as full control over the Legislative Assembly. Matters over internal security and the defence of Singapore, however, were still under the purview of the British.
Following nomination day on 25 April, a total of 194 candidates submitted their bids to contest for the 51 Legislative Assembly seats. Thirty-five candidates were independents while the remaining 159 candidates were fielded by 13 political parties. The contesting parties were the People’s Action Party (51 candidates), Singapore People’s Alliance (39 candidates), Liberal Socialists (32 candidates), United Malays National Organisation (8 candidates), Malayan Chinese Association (5 candidates), Party Rakyat (4 candidates), Citizens’ Party (5 candidates), Labour Front (3 candidates), Singapore Malay Union (3 candidates), Workers’ Party (3 candidates), Katong United Residents’ Association (2 candidates), Pan-Malayan Islamic Party (3 candidates) and the Malayan Indian Congress (2 candidates).
Although the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) was an opposition party at that time, the party’s decision to contest all 51 Legislative Assembly seats positioned it as the front runner in the election. The PAP aimed to be “a government of the people for the people” by providing Singapore with a “stable, honest and just government”. To counter the PAP, the ruling Singapore People’s Alliance along with other major opposition parties such as the Liberal Socialist Party accused the party of having a Marxist doctrine that would turn Singapore into a communist state if it was voted into power.
Despite the accusations by the other political parties, the PAP was not only voted into power for the first time but enjoyed a landslide victory in the election. The party won 43 out of 51 seats in the Legislative Assembly and captured 53.4 percent of the votes cast. After the election results were announced, incumbent Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock and his ministers tendered their resignations on 1 June 1959, thus paving the way for Lee Kuan Yew, then secretary-general of the PAP, to become the first prime minister of Singapore.
1. The day of decision. (1959, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 1; The assembly is dissolved. (1959, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; Lau, A. (2003). A moment of anguish: Singapore in Malaysia and the politics of disengagement (p. 9). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 LAU-[HIS])
2. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (pp. 268–269). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR.
3. Lim opposes Marshall in Cairnhill: Lee in Tanjong Pagar. (1959. April 26). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. People’s Action Party to contest all the 51 seats...two constituencies have 7 candidates (Part 1). (1959. April 26). The Straits Times, p. 11; People's Action Party to contest all the 51 seats...two constituencies have 7 candidates (Part 2). (1959, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
5. P.A.P. versus the rest. (1959. April 27). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. PAP leader: We can give an honest government. (1959. April 29). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sandhu, K. S., & Wheatley, P. (Eds.) (1989). Management of success: The moulding of modern Singapore (p. 72). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no.: RSING 959.57 MAN.
7. Lib-Soc candidate accuses PAP of red methods. (1950, May 13). The Straits Times, p. 6; Lim: PAP still rides red tiger. (1959, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 14; The final quotes. (1959, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. 2.45 am – PAP romps home with landslide victory. (1959, May 31). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lee seeing the governor: Lim resigns. (1959, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 1; Lee is premier. (1959, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 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.