Straits Times report on 1959 election day

The People's Action Party led by Lee Kuan Yew won the 1959 Singapore Legislative Assembly by a landslide, winning 43 of the 51 seats (see the Elections Department page and Wikipedia: total voters 586,098, voter turnout 527,919 or  92.9%). It faced a divided opposition. " No one doubts that the PAP stands to gain from the failure of the SPA and the Liberal Socialists to make common cause," said the Straits Times on the day of the election: May 30, 1959. 

st_may30_1959

The newspaper, troubled by the "ferocity of the campaigning", lamented: "Hatred has poisoned the election air, dividing the population into embittered sections — this in an island that needs a calm and sane air in which to sort out the grave economic problems that concern all, capitalist or worker."

st_may21_1959-copy

Only a few days earlier, on May 21, 1959, the Straits Times had criticized the PAP as "a threat to a free press".

It was responding to Mr Lee, who said at a Clifford Pier lunchtime rally that the PAP, if it won the election, would detain without trial under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (PPSO) "any editor, leader writer, sub-editor or reporter" who tried to "sour up or strain" relations with Kuala Lumpur. The Straits Times wrote: "Before PAP's secretary-general takes off on yet another flight of fantasy, he might ponder the unchallengeable fact that we have always called for the closest relations between the territories, long before it became politically fashionable to set off in pursuit of merger."  Here is the link to the article,Thursday, May 21, 1959. P.A.P. And P.P.S.O.

You can read these articles on NewspaperSG, the Singapore National Library digital archive of Singapore newspapers published between 1831 and 2006.

The Straits Times Saturday, May 30, 1959 The Day of Decision.

Singapore goes to the polls today to elect 51 members to the now legislature, against 25 in the old 32-member Rendel Assembly. The electorate has also doubled, the result of operation of the new citizenship laws which have swollen the register by some 300,000 voters, who are moreover required by law to cast their ballots. The decisive difference, of course, between 1955 and 1959 lies not in the arithmetic of Assembly seats or the size of the electorate but in the powers that pass into the hands of the new Government. Britain remains responsible for external defence and foreign affairs. There will also be an Internal Security Council on which the Federation (of Malaya) and Britain are represented. Otherwise, the new constitution arms the Government with complete authority over Singapore. In one essential respect, however, there has been no change. With fourteen parties in the field, Singapore is today no nearer the two-party system of parliamentary democracy than it was when seven parties sought the electors' favour four years ago. It is even possible to argue the prospects of election of a firm government on the one hand and of a coherent opposition on the other have receded further into the distance. Four years ago the right-wing Progressives, fielding candidates in 22 of the 25 constituencies, faced six parties, four of which agreed not to split the vote. The wheel has now gone full cycle. It is the left-wing People's Action that, contesting all the 51 seats, is taking on the Rest, except that the members of the Rest are not playing as a team but scrambling among themselves. This picture of disarray among the non-PAP parties emerged on Nomination Day, when the lists showed that the Singapore People's Alliance, with 39 candidates, and the Liberal Socialists, with 32, were fighting the PAP as well as each other in more than half the constituencies. The presence of eleven other parties and of 34 Independents has added to the confusion, so that in ten constituencies the non-PAP vote is split four ways, and even five ways and six ways in four constituencies… No one doubts that the PAP stands to gain from the failure of the SPA and the Liberal Socialists to make common cause.

The on and off negotiations between the two major anti-PAP parties; the battle for the vote on the platform and on the air, at the street corner, in the home, and in the coffee-shop — all this has dominated attention, so as to allow scant opportunity to reflect on the relative and intrinsic merits of the promises the parties are offering. PAP pledges a fair deal for the working population, greater strength for the unions, efforts to expand industrialisation; in its chairman's words, a programme to transform a feudalistic and outlook to a progressive and socialistic outlook" and so prepare the way for a future socialist society. The SPA is deeply concerned for the preservation of democracy, stakes a claim as the party that is best placed to negotiate a merger with the Federation, and also sets high among its aims the safeguarding of the working man's rice-bowl. The Liberal Socialists promise the benefits of a modern welfare state, to be achieved without disturbing the economic stability of Singapore.

How many voters have been able to weigh the possibilities of performance in each case, with all the clangour of the battle going on about them. The ferocity of the campaigning has moreover posed a danger that Singapore has never confronted. Hatred has poisoned the election air, dividing the population into embittered sections — this in an island that needs a calm and sane air in which to sort out the grave economic problems that concern all, capitalist or worker. Singapore has a population of one and a half million, increasing at the rate of some 60,000 a year. Every year some 20,000 to 30,000 reach working age. The merger which alone offers the long-range solution is not in sight. These are the facts that remain as electioneering ceases, as the people of Singapore, going to the ballot booths, embrace the "calculated risk" of choosing a government to whom they will entrust the working of a constitution whose essence is democracy.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Connect

Leave a Reply