The Malaysian People’s Movement Party (Malay: Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, commonly abbreviated as Gerakan) is a political party in Malaysia. The party was founded on 24 March 1968, and as of 2008, it is part of the ruling National Front coalition.
During its formation, Gerakan was an opposition party not affiliated with the national ruling coalition, the Alliance Party, the predecessor of the National Front. Following the 1969 general election, Gerakan won most of the seats in the state legislature of Penang. However, in 1972 Gerakan joined the Alliance Party which later became the coalition called the National Front, where it remains until today.
As of 2006, about 80% of Gerakan’s members are ethnic Chinese, another 15% are Indian, and the rest are Malays or other races.
The party is assisted by an affiliated think tank called SEDAR Institute (Socio-Economic Development And Research Institute).
The party is a member of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats.
In 1959, the leader of Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Dr. Lim Chong Eu resigned his position as president after conflict with UMNO leader Tunku Abdul Rahman over the allocation of seats in the 1959 general election . He left MCA, and later set up the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1962. In 1968, UDP was dissolved and its former members, together with the Labour Party and others, joined force to form a new party Gerakan. The six founders of the party were Professor Syed Hussain Alatas, Dr. Tan Chee Khoon, Dr. J.B.A. Peter, Lim Chong Eu, Professor Wang Gungwu, and V. Veerapan. Although its supporters are mainly Chinese, the party positioned itself as a Malaysian, non-communal party that has some support from Indians and Malays. Its pro tem president was Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, and later Lim took over the presidency which lasted until 1980.
The party won the state of Penang in the 1969 general election by taking 16 out of 24 seats, winning control from the MCA. Lim Chong Eu became Penang’s Chief Minister. Gerakan and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which won in Kelantan, were the only parties not then affiliated with the Alliance Party to form a state government in Malaysia. However, due to internal disputes within the party, the party was split. Many of its members, such as Syed Hussein Alatas, V. David, Veerappen, and Tan Chee Khoon, left to form Pekemas (Parti Keadilan Masyarakat, Social Justice Party). Pekemas however would last only four years, but Gerakan itself became largely Chinese as many non-Chinese left the party. In 1972, Gerakan joined the Alliance which became the Barisan Nasional in 1973.
In 1973, a number of former MCA members who were expelled from the party, including Lim Keng Yaik and Paul Leong Khee Seong, joined Gerakan. In 1980, Lim Chong Eu decide to retire from the post of party president, and Lim Keng Yaik won the presidency over Lim Chong Eu’s preferred candidate Paul Leong. Lim Keng Yaik stayed as president of Gerakan until he decided to retire in 2007.
Gerakan had continual conflicts with MCA as it challenged MCA’s position as the main Chinese party within Barisan Nasional. In the 1978 general election, disputes broke out between Gerakan and MCA as seven ex-MCA members (with support from MCA) stood against Gerakan. The party lost some seats but managed to retain its stronghold Penang. Gerakan also sought to expand its influence in others states, in particularly Perak, an effort helped by some defections from MCA.
In the 1990 general election, Gerakan suffered some setbacks. In particular, Lim Chong Eu was defeated by Lim Kit Siang of Democratic Action Party (DAP) in his Kota constituency, after which Lim Chong Eu retired from politics. Nevertheless Gerakan retained the post of Chief Minister of Penang with Dr. Koh Tsu Koon taking over the position.
For nearly four decades, from 1969 to 2008, Gerakan dominated Penang State Legislature, and became closely associated with the fortune of Penang. In that time there had been only two chief ministers in Penang, Lim and Koh Tsu Koon, both from Gerakan. In the 1995 general election, Gerakan bounced back, winning 7 parliamentary seats and 23 state seats. In 1996, in an attempt to win broader support, the party shifted its headquarter to Kuala Lumpur.
In the 2004 general election, Gerakan achieved its best electoral result, winning 10 parliamentary seats and 30 state seats. On 27 August 2005, the party held its party election which saw its president Lim Keng Yaik being challenged by its Deputy, Kerk Choo Ting. Lim retained his party President post after winning with 983 votes against 628 votes obtained by Kerk. Koh Tsu Koon became the new Deputy President which he won unopposed after the nomination day for the party election.
In the 2008 party elections, Koh Tsu Koon who won the post of President uncontested.
In the 2008 General Election, the party suffered its worst electoral defeat. The party retained only two parliament seats, compared to the 10 seats it had before the election. As a result, the party lost its only cabinet post in the ensuing cabinet shuffle. In addition, Gerakan also lost power in Penang after governing the state for almost 39 years. Soon after the defeat, a number of prominent members, such as Tan Kee Kwong and Lee Kah Choon, went over to the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat to take up posts with Opposition-led state governments in Penang and Selangor.
In 2013, the party failed to improve its position in the 2013 General Election, losing in fact one its two remaining parliamentary seats. Later in the year, Mah Siew Keong took over as president after beating Penang Gerakan chairman Teng Chang Yeow for the post.