On why she's running and what if she doesn't win

Madam Halimah Yacob on her plans to run for president.
Madam Halimah Yacob on her plans to run for president. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Q Why did you decide to contest the presidential election?

A I served 40 years in public service, in different capacities. My driving consideration has always been: What can I do? How can I contribute?

When the presidential election issue came about, a lot of people approached me to say: Why don't you consider running?

I gave it serious thought: Is there something I can do for Singapore and Singaporeans? And that is why I decided to take part in the presidential election.

Q What if you do not win?

A I don't have a Plan B. I just retire and spend more time with my family, do social work, champion the causes I have always been championing, especially disadvantaged children.

When you go into an election, you have got to also think of the possibility of losing.

Q What sort of support do you have?

A This morning, I spoke to Sister Theresa Seow from the Canossian Sisters. She sent me SMSes even before I said I am standing for election. I have had people from all walks of life, different religions, races, all coming to me and saying: "We will support you."


Singaporeans are fair-minded and open-minded. They want to look at the person who is going to stand for the position, what is the track record of that person, how can that person contribute.

I have great faith and confidence in their fair-mindedness... to look beyond the tudung, to look beyond religion, to look beyond race, to look beyond the gender, because that is what our system is all about.

Q Why did you refuse the suggestion to consider running for the director-general post at the International Labour Organisation (ILO)?

A ILO jobs are very well-paying. They provide pension, they pay for your family benefits and so on, housing, everything, medical.

They give very good terms and we get to live in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a wonderful country.

But it is very different because you do the work there, you don't get the same sense of fulfilment compared to working here: You are contributing something to your own people, your own country.

Q What will you miss most from life as a politician?

A I will miss the people. I am in the constituency almost seven days a week, I go for house visits... I will miss that a great deal, talking to them, listening to them.

I go down to the hawker centre to eat, people are used to seeing me, they come and talk to me.

Q How did you feel when Minister Chan Chun Sing addressed you as "Madam President" in Parliament earlier this year?

A I thought I heard it wrong the first time, so I didn't say anything. Then it was mentioned the second time. I almost fell off the chair. I felt very stressed out.

After the sitting, he told me it was unintended, it was a slip. I accepted his explanation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2017, with the headline 'On why she's running and what if she doesn't win'. Print Edition | Subscribe