People's Action Party

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The People's Action Party (abbrev: PAP; Template:Zh; Template:Lang-ms; Template:Lang-ta) is the leading political party in Singapore. It has been the city-state's ruling political party since 1959.

From the 1963 general elections, the PAP has dominated Singapore's parliamentary democracy and has been central to the city-state's rapid political, social, and economic development.[1] However, it has been criticized for laws that suppress free speech and other civil liberties.[2][3]

In the 2011 Singapore general election, the PAP won 81 of the 87 elected seats in the Parliament of Singapore while receiving 60.14% of total votes cast, the lowest share garnered since independence. It is due to the 'bad era', with Aljunied GRC being taken away to opposition, 54.7%. Potong Pasir SMC was handed back to PAP. This is like SBS Transit. Housing and transport have went down and screwed up.

Political development

File:Merdeka Singapore 1955.jpg
A PAP Merdeka rally at Farrer Park on 17 August 1955.
The party was formed in 1954 by English-educated middle-class professional men who had returned from their university education in the United Kingdom.

In 1954, Lim Chin Siong, along with his Chinese High senior,Template:Clarify Fong Swee Suan, was introduced to Lee Kuan Yew. Despite their ideological differences, the three men knew that they shared one common goal: to bring about full independence for Singapore. Together with Lee and others, Lim and Fong became founder members of the PAP on 21 November 1954.

In April 1955, Lim Chin Siong was elected as Assemblyman for the Bukit Timah constituency. Then 22 years old, he was and remained the youngest Assemblyman ever to be elected to office. The following year, Lim and Lee represented the PAP at the London Constitutional Talks, which ended in failure:­ the British declined to grant Singapore internal self-government. On 7 June 1956, David Marshall, disappointed with the constitutional talks, stepped down as Chief Minister, and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock.[4]

Lee Kuan Yew eventually accused Lim Chin Siong and his supporters of being Communists, even though according to the book Comet in Our Sky,[5] quoting two British scholars, no evidence was ever found that Lim was a Communist as had been revealed by declassified British government documents. Lee Kuan Yew imprisoned Lim Chin Siong without trial for many years, preventing him from competing against Lee as leader of the banned break-away opposition party the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front).

The PAP first contested the 1955 elections, in which 25 of 32 seats in the legislature were up for election. The party won three seats, one by its leader Lee Kuan Yew, and one by co-founder of the PAP, Lim Chin Siong, the election going to the Workers Party's David Saul Marshall.

David Marshall was vocally anti-British and anti-colonialist, and the British found it difficult to come to an agreement or a compromise. Eventually after failing to reach any agreement about a definite plan for self-government he resigned in 1956, following a pledge that he would achieve self-government or resign. Lim Yew Hock, another Labour Front member, took his place. He pursued an aggressive anti-communist campaign and managed to convince the British to make a definite plan for self-government. The Constitution of Singapore was revised accordingly in 1958, replacing the Rendel Constitution with one that granted Singapore self-government and the ability for its own population to fully elect its Legislative Assembly.

However, Lim's tactics against the communists alienated a large part of the Singaporean Chinese electorate, the demographic targeted most during the anti-communist campaign. There were also allegations of civil rights violations as many activists were detained without trial with the justification of internal security and tear gas were used against demonstrating students from several Chinese schools, both anti-colonialist and anti-communist alike.[6]

Following this initial defeat, the PAP decided to re-assert ties with the labour faction of Singapore by promising to release the jailed members of the PAP and at the same time getting them to sign a document that they supported Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP, in the hope that it could attract the votes of working-class Chinese Singaporeans. (According to the book 'Comet in our Sky', Lee Kuan Yew was being deceptive at this time: while pretending to be on the side of the jailed labour members of the PAP, according to the authors he was secretly in collusion with the British to stop Lim Chin Siong and the labour supporters from attaining power, whom Lee had courted because of their huge popularity, without which Lee would most likely not have been able to attain power. 'Comet in our Sky' states that Lim Yew Hock deliberately provoked the students into rioting and then had the labour leaders arrested, which the authors say Lee Kuan Yew knew all along. "Lee Kuan Yew was secretly a party with Lim Yew Hock" - adds Dr Greg Poulgrain of Griffiths University, as reported in 'Comet In Our Sky' - "in urging the Colonial Secretary to impose the subversives ban in making it illegal for former political detainees to stand for election."

The result was successful for the PAP under Lee Kuan Yew's control who won the 1959 election, and has held power ever since. The 1959 election was also the first election to produce a fully elected parliament and a cabinet wielding powers of full internal self-government. The party has won a majority of seats in every general election since then.

On independence from Britain in late 1962, Singapore joined the federation of Malaysia but left in 1965. Although the PAP was the ruling party in the state of Singapore, the PAP functioned as an opposition party at the federal level in the larger Malaysian political landscape. At that time (and ever since), the federal government in Kuala Lumpur was controlled by a coalition led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). However, the prospect that the PAP might rule Malaysia agitated UMNO and the Malay nationalist belief in Ketuanan Melayu. The PAP's decision to contest federal parliamentary seats outside Singapore, and the UMNO decision to contest seats within Singapore, breached an unspoken agreement to respect each other's spheres of influence, and aggravated PAP-UMNO relations. The clash of personalities between PAP leader Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman resulted in a crisis and led to the latter expelling Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia in August 1965. Upon independence, the PAP ceased operations outside Singapore, abandoning the nascent opposition movement it had started in Malaysia. Nevertheless, the Chinese-dominated opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) in Malaysia is historically linked to the PAP, while in Singapore, the Malay-dominated opposition Singapore Malay National Organization (PKMS) is historically linked to UMNO.[Citation Needed]

The PAP has held an overwhelming majority of seats in the Parliament of Singapore since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front), a left-wing group that split from PAP in 1961, resigned from Parliament after winning 13 seats following the 1963 state elections, which took place months after a number of their leaders had been arrested in Operation Coldstore based on false charges of being communists according to 'Comet in our Sky' authors. This left the PAP as the only major political party. In the general elections of 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an expanding parliament. Opposition parties have not held more than four parliamentary seats since 1984, until 2011 where the Worker's Party won 6 seats.


Initially adopting a traditionalist Leninist party organization together with a vanguard cadre from its labour-leaning faction in 1958, the PAP Executive later expelled the leftist faction, bringing the ideological basis of the party into the centre, and later in the 1960s, moving further to the right. In the beginning, there were about 500 so-called "temporary cadre" appointed[7] but the current number of cadres is unknown and the register of cadres is kept confidential. In 1988, Wong Kan Seng revealed that there were more than 1,000 cadres. Cadre members have the right to attend party conferences and to vote for and elect and to be elected to the Central Executive Committee (CEC), the pinnacle of party leaders. To become a cadre, a party member is first nominated by the MP in his or her branch. The candidate then undergoes three sessions of interviews, each with four or five ministers or MPs, and the appointment is then made by the CEC. About 100 candidates are nominated each year.[8]

Political power in the party is concentrated in the Central Executive Committee (CEC), led by the Secretary-General. Most CEC members are also cabinet members. From 1957 onwards the rules laid down that the outgoing CEC should recommend a list of candidates from which the cadre members can then vote for the next CEC. This has been changed recently so that the CEC nominates eight members and the party caucus selects the remaining ten.

The next lower level committee is the HQ Executive Committee (HQ Ex-Co) which performs the party's administration and oversees twelve sub-committees.[9] The sub-committees are:

  1. Branch Appointments and Relations
  2. Constituency Relations
  3. Information and Feedback
  4. New Media
  5. Malay Affairs
  6. Membership Recruitment and Cadre Selection
  7. PAP Awards
  8. Political Education
  9. Publicity and Publication
  10. Social and Recreational
  11. Women's Wing
  12. Young PAP


Since the early years of the PAP's rule, the idea of survival has been a central theme of Singaporean politics. According to Diane Mauzy and R.S. Milne, most analysts of Singapore have discerned four major "ideologies" of the PAP: pragmatism, meritocracy, multiracialism, and Asian values or communitarianism.[10] In January 1991 the PAP introduced the White Paper on Shared Values, which tried to create a national ideology and institutionalize Asian values. The party also says it has 'rejected' what it considers Western-style liberal democracy. Some contest this, pointing to the presence of many aspects of liberal democracy in Singapore's public policy, specifically the welfare state and recognition of democratic institutions. Professor Hussin Mutalib, however, opines that for Lee Kuan Yew "Singapore would be better off without liberal democracy".[11]

The party economic ideology has always accepted the need for some welfare spending, pragmatic economic interventionism and general Keynesian economic policy. However, free-market policies have been popular since the 1980s as part of the wider implementation of a meritocracy in civil society, and Singapore frequently ranks extremely highly on indices of "economic freedom" published by economically liberal organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Lee Kuan Yew has also said in 1992: "Through Hong Kong watching, I concluded that state welfare and subsidies blunted the individual's drive to succeed. I watched with amazement the ease with which Hong Kong workers adjusted their salaries upwards in boom times and downwards in recessions. I resolved to reverse course on the welfare policies which my party had inherited or copied from British Labour Party policies."[12]

The party is deeply suspicious of communist political ideologies, despite a brief joint alliance (with the pro-labour co-founders of the PAP who were falsely accused of being communists) against colonialism in Singapore during the party's early years. It has since considered itself a social democratic party, though in recent decades it has moved towards neoliberal and free-market economy reforms.

The socialism practiced by the PAP during its first few deacdes in power was of a pragmatic kind, as characterised by the party’s rejection of nationalisation. According to Chan Heng Chee, by the late Seventies, the intellectual credo of the government rested explicitly upon a philosophy of self-reliance, similar to the “rugged individualism” of the America brand of capitalism. Despite this, the PAP still claimed to be a socialist party, pointing out its regulation of the private sector, activist intervention in the economy, and social policies as evidence of this.[13] In 1976, however, the PAP resigned from the Socialist International after the Dutch Labour Party had proposed to expel the party,[14] accusing it of suppressing freedom of speech.

The PAP symbol is similar to the old Flash and Circle used by the British Union of Fascists under Sir Oswald Mosley, and later under Mosley's Union Movement. The meaning assigned to these symbols is also similar. The BUF and UM version (which was white and blue on red) was supposed to represent "the flash of action inside the circle of unity", while the PAP symbol (which is red and blue on white) stands for action inside "interracial unity". Furthermore, PAP members at party rallies have sometimes worn a "uniform" of white shirts and white trousers.


For many years, the party was led by former PAP secretary-general Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. Lee handed over the positions of secretary-general and prime minister to Goh Chok Tong in 1991. The current secretary general of the PAP and Prime Minister of Singapore is Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew, who succeeded Goh Chok Tong on 12 August 2004.

The chairperson of the PAP is Khaw Boon Wan.[15]

PAP's general election results

Legislative Assembly

Election Seats up for election Seats contested by party Seats won by walkover Contested seats won Contested seats lost Total seats won (Change) Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election
1955 25 4 0 3 1 3 (Template:Increase3) 13,634 8.7% PAP in opposition. Labour Front forms government.
1959 51 51 0 43 8 43 (Template:Increase40) 281,891 54.1% PAP majority
1963 51 51 0 37 14 37 (Template:Decrease6) 272,924 46.9% PAP majority


Election Seats up for election Seats contested by party Seats won by walkover Contested seats won Contested seats lost Total seats won (Change) Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election
1968 58 58 51 7 0 58 (Template:Increase21) 65,812 86.7% PAP wins all seats
1972 65 65 8 57 0 65 (Template:Steady) 524,892 70.4% PAP wins all seats
1976 69 69 16 53 0 69 (Template:Increase4) 590,169 74.1% PAP wins all seats
1980 75 75 33 38 0 75 (Template:Increase6) 494,268 77.7% PAP wins all seats
1984 79 79 30 47 2 77 (Template:Increase2) 568,310 64.8% PAP majority
1988 81 81 11 69 1 80 (Template:Increase3) 848,029 63.2% PAP majority
1991 81 81 41 36 4 77 (Template:Decrease3) 477,760 61% PAP majority
1997 83 83 47 34 2 81 (Template:Increase4) 465,751 65% PAP majority
2001 84 84 55 27 2 82 (Template:Increase1) 470,765 75.3% PAP majority
2006 84 84 37 45 2 82 (Template:Steady) 748,130 66.6% PAP majority
2011 87 87 5 76 6 81 (Template:Decrease1) 1,212,514 60.1% PAP majority



In February 2007 The Straits Times reported that PAP's "new media" committee, chaired by Dr Ng Eng Hen, had initiated an effort to counter critics on the internet. It has members posting anonymously at internet forums and blogs to rebut anti-establishment views.[16]

Presidential Elections

The PAP did not formally endorse any candidate in the 2011 presidential election. However, 3 of the 4 candidates were former party members.

See also






  • Goh, Cheng Teik (1994). Malaysia: Beyond Communal Politics. Pelanduk Publications. ISBN 967-978-475-4.



External links

Template:Singaporean political parties Template:Use dmy dateszh-min-nan:Jîn-bîn Hêng-tōng Tóng de:People’s Action Party (Singapur) es:Partido de Acción Popular fr:Parti d'action populaire ko:인민행동당 (싱가포르) id:Partai Tindakan Rakyat mr:पीपल्स अ‍ॅक्शन पार्टी ms:Parti Tindakan Rakyat nl:People's Action Party (Singapore) ja:人民行動党 pl:Partia Akcji Ludowej ru:Народное действие (партия) sv:People's Action Party uk:Партія Народної Дії vi:Đảng Hành động Nhân dân

  1. "A History of Singapore: Lion City, Asian Tiger". Discovery Channel. 2005.
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  13. Driven by Growth: Political Change in the Asia-Pacific Region edited by James W. Morley
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