Tunku Abdul Rahman - Political Career - Elections


After The Alliance called off the boycott, Elections to State Councils with Alliance participation could now proceed. Tunku and his colleagues traveled tirelessly to prepare for coming trial of strength. Tunku took Tan Cheng Lock and H.S Lee with him whenever possible and in particular when touring the northern Malay states, and emphasized the importance of unity among Malayans of all communities. At each State capital, the Alliance leaders called on the Ruler and assured him of their loyalty and support.

The links between UMNO and MCA grew stronger and on Tunku's initiative a National Council which became the supreme executive body of the Alliance was established. It took the place of the 'Round Table' which had no executive power and Tunku was formally recognized as 'Leader of the Alliance'. The first two elections to State Councils took place late in 1954 in Johor and Terengganu. In both state the Alliance won sweeping victories. Parti Negara did not capture a single seat. Tunku was now a popular figure in every state and in almost every kampung. He traveled constantly.

Towards the end of 1954, Tunku was invited by the Director of Operations to serve on the Federation War Executive Committee. It was Tunku's first direct introduction to the conduct of the Emergency terrorists, and it was a valuable experience. The government had promised to hold elections to the Federal Legislative Council in 1955, and in March of that year, It was announced that Nomination Day would be in June, and that July 27 would be Election Day. Many Malay government officers resigned in order to offer themselves as candidates. As nomination day approached, Tunku was plagued by demands that a high proportion of the candidates should be Malay.

Tunku brought the matter to the next UMNO Assembly and urged the members to adopt what he called "a policy of racial unselfishness". Tunku's arguments were compelling and he won a unanimous vote of confidence. Almost at the eleventh hour, Tunku's repeated emphasis on the importance of unity during the elections brought him a bonus. The Malayan Indian Congress, MIC, which had wavered in its support of Parti Negara, now promised to back the Alliance, representing the Indian community.

On Nomination day, the Alliance entered a candidate in every one of the 52 constituencies. Parti Negara entered 30 candidates. 29 Malays and one Chinese. Four other political parties entered a total of 29 candidates. Eighteen others stood as Independents. Two weeks before Nomination Day, Onn announced that he would stand in Johor Bharu, and challenged Tunku to stand against him. It was a tactical error. The Alliance let it be known that the Party would decide where Tunku should stand, and it gave the headquarters an opportunity to select a candidate who could be expected to defeat Onn.

Tunku chose Kuala Muda in Kedah, where he had been District Office before Second World War. The choice left him free to travel all over the country, by car, by boat, by bicycle, by lorry, and on foot. Tunku's seldom slept in the same bed two nights in a row, but he was tireless, inspiring and confident. He paid particular attention to the Malay majority constituencies where the Alliance had put up Chinese candidates. Dato' Onn also campaigned with feverish energy. He had resigned from the post of Member of Home Affairs in order to concentrate on the election.

Onn no longer hoped to win a majority, but he seemed confident that Parti Negara would provide substantial opposition. Tunku's resisted invitations to forecast the election results, but he let it be known that he was confident of an Alliance victory. It was only during the last week of the elections that Tunku toured his own constituency. Everywhere he went, he was promised total support. He spent the day before the elections in the UMNO House in Alor Setar and telephoned the Alliance headquarters in every state.

On polling day, after casting his vote, he drove himself on a whirlwind tour to constituencies in Kedah and then set off to Kuala Lumpur accompanied by T.H Tan. Tunku stopped at every main polling station en route, and only arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 11pm, making it possible for him to enter the town unrecognised. Tunku always enjoyed company of his friends but on the night of July 27, he was exhausted and wanted to be alone. Tunku spent the night at the Eastern Hotel, listening to the results of the elections until the Kuala Lumpur Radio Station went off air at 3AM.

Tunku had shared a room with T.H Tan before and it was not an experience he intended to repeat. But that night, he was too tired to move anywhere else, and he remained in Tan's room for what was left of the night. Tunku woke up after barely two hours of sleep. He rose, took a bath and recited his morning prayers. While Tunku dressed, the first visitor arrived with a summary of the results from the Alliance headquarters. Tunku won with a majority of more than 20,000 votes, Sulaiman won with 5,943 votes against Dato' Onn only managed to secure 2,802 votes. The Alliance have won 51 seats, Pan Malayan Islamic Party won only one seat. Other parties did not captured any seats. Tunku was impressed that no politician in colonial territory ever won a 99 per cent election victory.

Tunku's next visitor was Col H.S Lee who brought suggestions for the composition of the Alliance Cabinet. While they talked, another message was relayed, conveying the congratulations of the High Commissioner on the Alliance victory. At the Alliance headquarters, more supporters came to congratulate Tunku. Later the same day, Tunku arrived at the UMNO headquarters in Johor Bahru. The road outside it was very crowded because everyone wanted to congratulate their President.

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