Adult Suffrage Comes to Penang and Malaysia, 1951

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On December 1, 1951, the first case of universal adult suffrage took place in Malaya. This was when Penang held its first municipal election. This followed swiftly after the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance, 1950 for the Federation of Malaya, became law on January 1, 1951.
The Report on the Introduction of Elections in the Municipality of George Town, Penang (Kuala Lumpur: Government Press, 1951), written by the Supervisor of Elections, A.S.M. Hawkins, was ready for public viewing by the end of December 1951. The following text is extracted by Ooi Kee Beng to present the results and the concluding comments made by Hawkins. The Radical Party was the clear winner in the new Penang Municipal Council, which after the election consisted of “nine elected councillors and six councillors and the President appointed by His Excellency the High Commissioner in Nominated Council”.

The new council.

53. The political composition of the elected part of the new Council is six Radical, one Labour, one U.M.N.O., and one Independent. Functionally they are four lawyers, two doctors, one office assistant, one Government pensioner and one schoolmaster. It was gratifying to find that in a town where the attitude to women is still rather early Victorian, two women contested the elections. One of them topped the poll in her ward and is returned for three years. The other, though not among the first three, had a very good following. I hope that women will continue to play their part in elections and local government, and will follow the good example of the two pioneers.


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