Parti Rakyat Malaysia
The Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM, Malaysian People's Party) is a democratic socialist political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 in Malaysia. Established on November 11, 1955 as Partai Ra'ayat, it is one of the older political parties in Malaysia and traces its pedigree to the anti-colonial movements from the pre World War II period like the Kesatuan Melayu Muda
Kesatuan Melayu Muda
Kesatuan Melayu Muda was the first national political establishment in British Malaya. Ibrahim Yaacob played a huge role in founding the union in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, then the capital of the Federated Malay States. The main goal of the union was to unite all Malays regardless of origin and fight...



The founder of PRM, Ahmad Boestamam, was an activist of the leftist Kesatuan Melayu Muda
Kesatuan Melayu Muda
Kesatuan Melayu Muda was the first national political establishment in British Malaya. Ibrahim Yaacob played a huge role in founding the union in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, then the capital of the Federated Malay States. The main goal of the union was to unite all Malays regardless of origin and fight...

 (KMM) movement. During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, he had briefly served as with the Japanese sponsored militia known as the Pembela Tanah Ayer (Defender of the Homeland; PETA) and later helped to organise co-operative communes run by the KMM.

With the capitulation of the Japanese in 1945, movements that collaborated with the Japanese like KMM likewise collapsed and the leftist Malay activists regrouped to organize various political movements, such as the Malay Nationalist Party  led by Burhanuddin al-Helmy
Burhanuddin al-Helmy
Burhanuddin bin Muhammad Nur al-Hilmi, commonly known as Burhanuddin al-Helmy was a Malaysian politician. He was the President of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party from 1956 to 1969.-Early and personal life:...

, the Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (Awakened Youth Organization; API) led by Ahmad Boestamam and the Angkatan Wanita Sedar (Cohort of Awakened Women; AWAS) led by Shamsiah Fakeh
Shamsiah Fakeh
Shamsiah Fakeh was a Malaysian nationalist and feminist. She was the leader of Angkatan Wanita Sedar , Malaysia's first nationalist women organization and a prominent Malay leader of the Communist Party of Malaya ....

. Boestamam was part of the PKMM and API delegation that participated in the Pan-Malayan Malay Congress in 1946 and was instrumental in keeping the Malay leftist movements out of the United Malays National Organisation
United Malays National Organisation
The United Malays National Organisation, is Malaysia's largest political party; a founding member of the National Front coalition, which has played a dominant role in Malaysian politics since independence....

 (UMNO) that resulted out of the congress.

Growing opposition to the Malayan Union
Malayan Union
The Malayan Union was a federation of the Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca. It was the successor to British Malaya and was conceived to unify the Malay Peninsula under a single government so as to simplify administration. The Malayan Union later became the independent...

 confederation led the British colonial authorities to consider an alternative constitutional framework for the country. A proposal known as the "Constitutional Proposals for Malaya" was developed in cooperation with UMNO and representatives of the Malay rulers. This proposal was opposed by a large segment of the non-Malay population of the country who saw it as discriminatory as well as a sizable portion of the nationalists who saw it as delaying the self-determination
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

 and independence of Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...


A combination of anti-British sentiments and economic hardships saw the coalescing of the various political movements representing the Malay and non-Malay populations and eventually led to the formation of a broad coalition with the Malay movements represented in Pusat Tenaga Ra'ayat
Pusat Tenaga Ra'ayat
The Pusat Tenaga Raayat was a major political party in Malaysia opposed to the United Malays National Organization and the Malay-supremacist ideology of Ketuanan Melayu. It formed an opposition coalition with the All-Malaya Council of Joint Action. "Raayat" is the archaic spelling for the Malay...

 (People's United Front; PUTERA), itself a coalition of movements like PKMM, API, AWAS and others, and the non-Malay movements represented in the All-Malaya Council of Joint Action
All-Malaya Council of Joint Action
The All-Malaya Council of Joint Action was a coalition of political and civic organizations in Malaya formed to participate in the development of a constitution for post-war Malaya in preparation for independence and to oppose the Constitutional Proposals for Malaya which eventually formed the...

 (AMCJA), another coalition of movements such as the Malayan Indian Congress, Malayan Democratic Union, and others.

The PUTERA-AMCJA tabled an alternative proposal known as the People's Constitutional Proposal and attempted to lobby for a Royal Commission to be formed to review the original proposals. The PUTERA-AMCJA also launched a successful nationwide hartal
Hartal is a term in many Indian languages for strike action, used often during the Indian Independence Movement. It is mass protest often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, courts of law as a form of civil disobedience...

 was organised on October 20, 1947, the same date where the constitutional proposals were due to be deliberated by the House of Commons in London.

Despite these efforts, PUTERA-AMCJA failed to overturn the decision to adopt the Constitional Proposals which led to the formation of the Federation of Malaya
Federation of Malaya
The Federation of Malaya is the name given to a federation of 11 states that existed from 31 January 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957...

 on January 31, 1948. API was banned on March 20, 1948, gaining the distinction of being the first political movement in Malaya to be banned by the authorities and Boestamam was arrested on July 1, 1948. A declaration of emergency
An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment. Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation, although in some situations, mitigation may not be possible and agencies may only be able to offer palliative...

 was extended nationwide on July 12, 1948 in what became the Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army , the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960....

 and resulted in the arrests and incarceration of many leftist and nationalist activists. Many who managed to escaped the dragnet joined the armed rebellion coordinated by the Communist Party of Malaya.


Upon his release from incarceration in 1955, Boestamam regrouped his supporters to form Partai Ra'ayat (People's Party; PR). The new party was inaugurated on November 11, 1955 embracing a philosophy of nationalistic social democracy focussing on the poor known as Marhaenism, a phrase coined by Sukarno
Sukarno, born Kusno Sosrodihardjo was the first President of Indonesia.Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for independence from the Netherlands and was Indonesia's first President from 1945 to 1967...

. PR formed a coalition with the Labour Party of Malaya
Labour Party of Malaya
The Labour Party of Malaya was a political party of Malaya that was active between 1952 to 1969. It was originally formed as a confederation of state based labour parties known as the Pan-Malayan Labour Party or PMFP.-Origins:...

 led by another PKMM veteran, Ishak Haji Muhammad
Ishak Haji Muhammad
Ishak Haji Muhammad or better known as Pak Sako was a prominent Malaysian writer, active in the 1930s until the 1950s. He was a nationalist and his involvement began before independence and continued thereafter...

. This became known as the Malayan People's Socialist Front  or the Socialist Front (SF) and was officially August 26, 1958.

Branches of PR was formed in the neighbouring British protectorate of Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

 and the colony of Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 in what eventually became the Partai Rakyat Brunei (Brunei People's Party; PRB) and Partai Rakyat Singapore (Singapore People's Party (PRS) - not to be mistaken with the current Singapore People's Party
Singapore People's Party
The Singapore People's Party is a left of centre opposition political party in Singapore. The party's leader is Chiam See Tong.-Foundation:...

). Both these branches eventually disappeared from active politics by the mid 1960s with the PRB banned in 1962 and the PRS never sufficiently gaining enough support in Singapore for electoral success. The PRB is believed to be still operating in exile and the PRS remains a registered political party in Singapore.

Early successes

The SF participated in both municipal and legislative elections and successfully captured significant number of seats in the urban areas where PR won Parliamentary seats in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the second largest city in Malaysia by population. The city proper, making up an area of , has a population of 1.4 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.2 million...

 and Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru is the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia. Johor Bahru is the southernmost city of the Eurasian mainland...

 in the 1959 general election
Malayan general election, 1959
General elections were held in Malaya on 19 August 1959, the first since independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. It was the third national-wide election held in Malaya since the end of World War II. Malaya later formed Malaysia with three other states in 1963. Voter turnout was 73.3%.In the...

 and the SF as a whole successfully garnering 13% of the votes becoming the third largest party in Parliament after the Alliance and the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PMIP). The SF further consolidated its gains in municipal elections including the City Council of Georgetown, Penang where it won 14 of the 15 seats in the Council during the 1961 Local Elections. The SF was further strengthened when the former Minister of Agriculture, Aziz Ishak
Aziz Ishak
Abdul Aziz bin Ishak is a Malaysian freedom fighter, politician and journalist.Aziz was, in fact, the only member of the pre-war Kesatuan Melayu Muda to have served in the 1955 and post-Merdeka Cabinets under Tunku Abdul Rahman. Between 1955 and 1963, he was the Minister for Agriculture and...

, brought his National Convention Party
National Convention Party
National Convention Party may refer to:*National Convention Party , a political party in Gambia*National Convention Party , a political party in Ghana*National Convention Party , a political party in Mozambique...

 into the coalition.

Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, AC, CH was Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1955, and the country's first Prime Minister from independence in 1957. He remained as the Prime Minister after Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore joined the...

's announcement for the expansion of Malaya into a larger federation known as Malaysia in 1961 galvanised the cooperation between the various Opposition parties in the Parliament
Parliament of Malaysia
The Parliament of Malaysia is the national legislature of Malaysia, based on the Westminster system. The bicameral parliament consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The King as the Head of State is the third component of Parliament....

. The SF found itself working on the same side as Parti Negara
Parti Negara
Parti Negara was a Malay-based political party which was formed by former leaders of the Independence of Malaya Party in 1953, and formally launched in February 1954...

, the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (Malaysia)
The People's Progressive Party is a political party in Malaysia.The party is one of the constituent members of the ruling National Front and is a multiracial party.-History:...

 (PPP), the United Democratic Party (UDP), and the PMIP, in opposing the proposal due to the perception that it was being formulated by the Alliance
An alliance is an agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests.See also military alliance and business alliance.-International relations:...

 without the consent of the people of the territories.


However, with the onset of the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation
Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation during 1962–1966 was Indonesia’s political and armed opposition to the creation of Malaysia. It is also known by its Indonesian/Malay name Konfrontasi...

 in 1962, opposition to the new federation came to be seen as being pro-Indonesia and anti national. This caused significant rifts among the Opposition parties. Many party leaders were also arrested and incarcerated including Boestamam, Ishak Muhammad and Aziz Ishak under the Internal Security Act
Internal Security Act (Malaysia)
The Internal Security Act 1960 is a preventive detention law in force in Malaysia. The legislation was enacted after Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. The ISA allows for detention without trial or criminal charges under limited, legally defined circumstances...

 (ISA). These factors cost the SF significant losses in the 1964 general election
Malaysian general election, 1964
General elections were held in Malaysia on 25 April 1964. The result was a victory for the Alliance Party, which won 89 of the 104 seats. Voter turnout was 78.9%.The result also contributed towards the eventual expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia...

 where PR and the NCP failed to gain any seats at all and the LPM lost significant number of seats.

With most of the senior leadership of the SF incarcerated, the SF eventually collapsed when PR announced its decision to withdraw in December 1965.

Scientific socialism

In the leadership vacuum, a group of young intellectuals led by Kassim Ahmad took over the reins of the party and it underwent a radical change. The party was renamed Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (Malaysian People's Socialist Party; PSRM) and it officially adopted scientific socialism
Scientific Socialism
Scientific socialism is the term used by Friedrich Engels to describe the social-political-economic theory first pioneered by Karl Marx. The purported reason why this socialism is "scientific socialism" is because its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its...

 as its ideology. Despite the reorientation of the party, the post 1969
Malaysian general election, 1969
General elections were held in Malaysia on 10 May 1969, although voting was postponed until between 21 and 27 June in Sabah and Sarawak. It resulted in the return to power, with a reduced majority, of the ruling Alliance Party, comprising the United Malays National Organization , the Malayan...

 political scenario meant that the party remained in the sidelines.

Other leaders were also arrested under the ISA like Syed Husin Ali in 1974 and Kassim himself in 1976. This cost the party significant organizational cohesiveness that continued to plague it right into the next decade. Leaders like Kampo Radjo and Syed Hussin helped keep the party intact over the next decade.


In the party's congress in 1989, the party decided to revert to its previous name but retaining the term "Malaysia". A new leadership was also elected and Syed Husin was named party president while academic Sanusi Osman was elected Secretary General. The reversion to the name Parti Rakyat Malaysia was not without controversy and a group led by Mohd Nasir Hashim left the party. This group eventually formed the core that founded the Socialist Party of Malaysia. The reorganised PRM contested the 1990 general elections
Malaysian general election, 1990
General elections were held in Malaysia on 21 October 1990. The result was a victory for the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional, which won 127 of the 180 seats...

 as part of the Gagasan Rakyat coalition with the Democratic Action Party
Democratic Action Party
The Democratic Action Party, or DAP is a secular, multi-racial, social democratic Malaysian political party.The DAP is one of the three major opposition parties in Malaysia, along with the PKR and PAS, that are seen as electable alternatives to the Barisan Nasional coalition of parties...

 (DAP), Semangat 46
Semangat 46
Parti Melayu Semangat 46 or Spirit of 46 Malay Party is a now defunct Malaysian political party. The party was formed in 1988 under the leadership of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who felt capable of mounting a realistic challenge to the dominance of then UMNO under Mahathir's leadership and its...

, All Malaysian Indian Progressive Front
All Malaysian Indian Progressive Front
The All Malaysian Indian Progressive Front , also known as the Indian Progressive Front , is a Malaysian political party formed as a splinter of the Malaysian Indian Congress by M.G. Pandithan. The party supports the Barisan Nasional coalition but it is not a member.-See also:*List of political...

 (IPF) and Parti Bersatu Sabah
Parti Bersatu Sabah
The Parti Bersatu Sabah is a political party in Sabah, east Malaysia. It was registered as a political party on March 5, 1985...

 (PBS). Although PRM failed to win any seats, it marked the beginning of the reversal of the party's fortunes.

The Gagasan Rakyat coalition did not survive the 1995 elections
Malaysian general election, 1995
General elections were held in Malaysia on 25 April 1995. The result was a victory for the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional, which won 162 of the 192 seats. Voter turnout was 68.3%.-Results:...

 after the withdrawal of PBS and the dissolution of Semangat 46. Nonetheless, this was soon followed by the Reformasi
Reformasi (Malaysia)
The Reformasi movement in Malaysia was initiated by Anwar Ibrahim and his supporters shortly after he was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998. It consisted of several mass demonstrations and rallies against the long-standing Barisan Nasional coalition government, and continued until Anwar was...

 movement that saw the creation of a new coalition known as Barisan Alternatif
Barisan Alternatif
Barisan Alternatif was a coalition of Malaysian opposition parties, formed as a counterweight to the ruling Barisan Nasional...

 (Alternative Front; BA) that grouped PRM, DAP, PMIP (known as PAS since the 1970s) and the newly formed Parti Keadilan Nasional (National Justice Party; KeADILan).

PRM also gained an influx of younger members from the interest and political consciousness generated by the Reformasi movement during this period which rejuvenated the youth wing of the party. BA contested the 1999 general elections
Malaysian general election, 1999
The 1999 Malaysian General Election was held on 29 November 1999 as stipulated by the laws of Malaysia for general elections. As expected, the Barisan Nasional coalition maintained its majority in parliament, and thus, its grip on the post of Prime Minister....

 with PRM contesting three parliamentary seats in three state seats. The BA won 40.23% of the popular vote but PRM failed again to win any seats although it did lose one seat only by a narrow margin of 8.4% of the votes.


Following the 1999 general elections, KeADILan began to explore the possibility of merger between the two parties. However the merger was delayed by the lengthy negotiations between the two parties. The two parties only officially merged on August 3, 2003 becoming Parti KeADILan Rakyat
Parti Keadilan Rakyat
The People's Justice Party , often known simply as KeADILan) is a centrist political party in Malaysia formed in 2003 by a merger of the National Justice Party and the older Malaysian People's Party...

 (People's Justice Party; PKR). PRM had to contest the 2004 general elections
Malaysian general election, 2004
General elections were held in Malaysia on March 21, 2004. The incumbent National Front government of Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was re-elected with an increased majority.-Election results:...

 under KeADILan's symbol as the merger had yet to be approved by the authorities.

The 2004 elections almost routed the BA with the coalition losing 22 seats out of the 42 it held in the previous Parliament. There was also growing tension between some former PRM members in PKR with the leadership over what was perceived as a growing influence of neoconservatism
Neoconservatism in the United States is a branch of American conservatism. Since 2001, neoconservatism has been associated with democracy promotion, that is with assisting movements for democracy, in some cases by economic sanctions or military action....

 within the new party stemming from the personal friendship between the party's leader, Anwar Ibrahim
Anwar Ibrahim
Anwar bin Ibrahim is a Malaysian politician who served as Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998. Early in his career, Anwar was a close ally of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad but subsequently emerged as the most prominent critic of Mahathir's government.In 1999, he was sentenced...

 and Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University...


Quite a number of former PRM members in PKR were also not comfortable with the merger in the first place and found a rallying point to express their dissent, particularly towards the former leadership who negotiated the merger.


On April 17, 2005 the dissidents convened a National Congress in Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru is the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia. Johor Bahru is the southernmost city of the Eurasian mainland...

, taking advantage of the fact that the party had yet to be de-registered by the authorities, and elected a new Executive Committee led by former PRM youth leader, Hassan Karim to resume political activities as PRM.

PRM has since contested in the 2008 general elections
Malaysian general election, 2008
The 12th Malaysian general election was held on March 8, 2008, in accordance with Malaysian laws for national elections, which states that a general election must be held no later than five years subsequent to the previous elections; the previous general election was held in 2004...

 but has again yet to get one of their number elected into the legislature. A new coalition of Opposition parties, Pakatan Rakyat
Pakatan Rakyat
Pakatan Rakyat or PR is an informal Malaysian political coalition. It currently controls four state governments while in opposition to the ruling Barisan Nasional at the federal level....

 (People's Pact, Pakatan), was formed after the 2008 elections but PRM has remained outside the coalition to date.


Name Tenure
Ahmad Boestamam 1955–1966
Kassim Ahmad 1965–1980
Kampo Radjo 1980–1989
Syed Husin Ali 1989–2003
- Vacant - 2003–2005
Hassan Karim 2005–2009
Ariffin Salimon (acting) 2009–2010
Rohana Ariffin (acting) 2010–present


PRM is currently centre-left
Centre-left is a political term that describes individuals, political parties or organisations such as think tanks whose ideology lies between the centre and the left on the left-right spectrum...

 in orientation and stresses on the promotion of progressive values, of economic, political and human progress, democracy and basic human rights, unity of the people, ethical and cultural values, and the protection of the environment.

See also

  • Parti Sosialis Malaysia
    Parti Sosialis Malaysia
    Parti Sosialis Malaysia , is a socialist political party in Malaysia and an offshoot of Parti Rakyat Malaysia, which originally upheld the same ideology. In its first ten years following its founding in 1998, the party was denied registration as a political party by the Federal Government of Malaysia...

  • Parti Rakyat Brunei
  • List of political parties in Malaysia
  • Politics of Malaysia
    Politics of Malaysia
    The politics of Malaysia takes place in the framework of a federal constitutional monarchy, in which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is head of state and the Prime Minister of Malaysia is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the federal government and the 13 state governments. ...

External links

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