Singaporean general election, 1963

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Singaporean general election, 1963
1959 ←
21 September 1963 → 1968

All 51 seats to the Legislative Assembly
26 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 587,433 (95.1%)
  First party Second party Third party
  Lee Kuan Yew cropped.jpg Dr Lee Siew Choh.jpg
Leader Lee Kuan Yew Lee Siew Choh Ong Eng Guan
Leader's seat Tanjong Pagar Rochore (lost) Hong Lim
Last election 43 seats, 54.1% New New
Seats before 25 14 2
Seats won 37 13 1
Seat change Increase12 Decrease1 Decrease1
Popular vote 272,924 193,301 48,785
Percentage 46.9% 33.2% 8.4%
Swing Decrease7.2% New New

Prime Minister before election

Lee Kuan Yew

Elected Prime Minister

Lee Kuan Yew

Coat of arms of Singapore (blazon).svg
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General elections were held in Singapore on 21 September 1963, five days after the merger with Malaysia. The elections saw an attempt by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party in Malaysia tried, to oust the People's Action Party by sending in the UMNO-backed Singapore Alliance Party to contest the elections, 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 Legislative Assembly.

They were the only elections to be held in Singapore as a state of Malaysia; following the independence in 1965, the Legislative Assembly elected in 1963 became the first Parliament, and its members became Members of Parliament.


Although the PAP had won 43 seats in the 1959 elections, they had been reduced to 39 seats by 1961 following two by-election defeats and two defections to the new United People's Party. The party also expelled 13 of its Assembly Members a week after they voted against the PAP government in a no-confidence motion on 20 July 1961; the dissidents subsequently formed a new party, the Barisan Sosialis (BS), which PAP alleged was a communist front. The combination of by-election defeats, defections and expulsions reduced the PAP to 26 seats and gave the opposition 25, leaving PAP with a one-seat majority.

On 3 July 1962, while the integration referendum debate was in procession, PAP legislator Ho Puay Choo resigned, leaving it one seat short against the opposition. She joined the BS on 11 August 1962 but five days later, the United People's Party's legislator S. V. Lingam returned to PAP fold, giving it back its one-seat majority. Another five days later, minister Ahmad Ibrahim died from liver cancer, leaving both sides with 25 seats in the legislature. Barisan planned to field its iconic leader, Lim Chin Siong, in the vacated seat but Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew decided against holding a by-election, choosing instead to call a full election to gain a fresh mandate. If the government failed to be re-elected, the Malaysia Federal government could deal with a new pro-communist ruling party in Singapore.

On 31 August 1963 Singapore was declared independent with the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) declared as trustees until the merger with Malaysia could be complete. On 3 September 1963 Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister, dissolved the Legislative Assembly in accordance with procedure, and called for elections to be held on 21 September.

Electoral system[edit]

The 51 members of the Legislative Assembly were elected in 51 single-member constituencies under the first-past-the-post system.


The elections, held in the midst of Singapore's merger with Malaysia, are remembered as the PAP's most hard-fought election. Once again, PAP fielded a full slate but faced intensive challenges from three components that did nearly the same. Barisan and its partner, Parti Rakyat fielded candidates in all except two seats, and the 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 if BS won, Malaysia would send troops into Singapore and invoke emergency powers in place of the incoming government, leaving no opportunity for Barisan to respond. This was said to have accounted for the eventual victory of the PAP the following day.

The sole Workers' Party legislator David Marshall resigned from the party he founded and became the only independent. Another participant was the Singapore Alliance Party, an extension of the ruling federal Alliance Party in Malaysia. It was a formalised umbrella consisting of the Singapore People's Alliance along with the local branches of UMNO, the Malayan Chinese Association and Malayan Indian Congress. However, its leader former Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock opted not to run in the elections, citing a defamation campaign by the PAP.[1]


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. The party received just under 47% of the popular vote, compared to 54% in 1959, and represented their lowest-ever vote share since coming to power in 1959.

The Barisan Sosialis failed to win most of the seats they contested, and were hampered by the split in the anti-PAP vote between the UPP and Barisan in individual constituencies.

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 Barisan government; strong support among voters for Singapore's merger with Malaya, which was perceived to be jeopardised if Barisan won due to its opposition to merger; as well as English-educated middle classes fearful of communism tactically voting for PAP following the split of the leftists away from the party. Perhaps the most devastating factor for Barisan's defeat was its support for Indonesia and the Communist Party of Indonesia's opposition to the formation of Malaysia, especially given the fact that Indonesia had declared Konfrontasi and begun provocative military manouvres in Borneo in the lead up to the election.

A total of 92 candidates forfeited their deposits.

Party Votes % Seats +/– Swing
People's Action Party 272,924 46.9 37 −6 -7.2
Barisan Sosialis 193,301 33.2 13 +13 New
Singapore Alliance 48,967 8.4 0 –3 -19.1
United People's Party 48,785 8.4 1 +1 New
Partai Rakyat 8,259 1.4 0 0 +1.0
Pan-Malayan Islamic Party 1,545 0.3 0 0 +0.1
United Democratic Party 760 0.1 0 New New
Workers' Party 286 0.1 0 0 -0.7
Independents 6,788 1.2 0 −1
Invalid/blank votes 5,818
Turnout 587,433 100 51 0
Registered voters/turnout 617,450 95.1
Source: Singapore Elections

By constituency[edit]


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 constitituencies in 1966 and five constituencies in 1967.


  1. ^ Lau, Albert (1998). A Moment of Anguish: Singapore in Malaysia and the Politics of Disengagement. Singapore: Times Academic Press. ISBN 981-210-1349.