PPP was formed in 1953 by the Seenivasagam brothers mainly as an opposition party to the Alliance; the party's first president was Dr Kanagaratnam Pillai with the Seenivasagam brothers as office bearers. It was hugely popular party upon inception, particularly due to the popularity of the brothers who spoke up for justice, equality and the common man.
For a short period in 1953, PPP joined the ruling Alliance with UMNO, MIC, and MCA (which would later become the Barisan Nasional), but withdrew in 1954 over disagreement with the Alliance on allocation of seats, to become an opposition party again. In 1969, as a strong opposition party, PPP was nearly able to form the Perak State Government, but fell short of just 2 seats in combination with the opposition to form the state assembly when 2 of its members crossed over. The success of PPP was mainly due to the Chinese vote, though many of the top leaders then were Indians.
In 1973, PPP became one of the founding members of the National Front. It was brought into the National Front to keep the Indian and Chinese vote, especially after the 1969 racial riots.
However, joining the coalition would prove its undoing as it lost nearly all its seats when it contested under the Barisan Nasional ticket in the 1974 General Elections. This was mainly due to Chinese anti-establishment feeling that was prevailing at that time.
Today, under the leadership of Datuk M. Kayveas, the PPP has a membership of more than 500,000 with a network of over 3000 branches throughout the country. All registered members carry a membership card signed by the President; the President's card is signed by the Secretary General. As of 2006, 48% of the PPP's membership is Indian, 32% are Chinese, 13% are Malay, and the rest are of other ethnicities.