By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The first elected office Dilma Rousseff ran for in her long political career was an ambitious one, and she made history by being the first female president of Brazil. The exhausting campaign period my be over, but the real work is yet to start for Dilma, as she comes face-to-face with the reality of governing the fifth largest country in the world.
Hand-picked by the current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as his successor, and boosted to victory by his support, Dilma now faces the challenges of living up to the standards set by him, and the heavy expectations of carrying on his legacy.
In her victory speech as the president-elect, Dilma was visibly moved as she thanked the Brazilians for their confidence in her, and expressed her gratitude for Lula, adding that during her presidency she will be “knocking on his door, and definitely will find it open.”
Acknowledging the difficulty and challenges of being the successor to Lula, Dilma, who is elected with 56 percent of the valid votes, also said that her “joy of her victory” is mixed with the “emotions of having to bid farewell” to his presidency.”
“The equality of opportunities for men and women is a vital principle of democracy. I would love to see the fathers and mothers of girls today look in their eyes, and tell them: ‘yes, a woman can!’”, added the president-elect, who is set to start a new chapter in Brazilian history as the first female to hold the nation’s highest office.
Dilma’s win has been greeted by joy among her supporters throughout Brazil, and with optimism around the world. Some sense this is due to the fact that her presidency is a continuation of Lula’s rule, and the further development of Brazil by the implementation of his successful policies.
In Rio de Janeiro, which voted in favor of Dilma by sixty percent, about a thousand people gathered in Leme on Sunday night in front of a big screen set up on a truck, waving flags, and dancing to the sound of samba and batucada, hailing the nation’s new president Carnival style.
Her opponents, on the other hand, question her militant past, and fear that a continuity in presidency will also mean that necessary changes in various issues that afflict the country, such as corruption, will not take place.
José Serra, the defeated candidate, reassured his supporters that he will continue to be active in politics, working in defense of liberty and democracy in his concession speech, pointing out that he has no hard feelings, but only positive expectations with regard to the future of Brazil.
“I didn’t come here to speak out of frustration, but of hope”, said Serra, and with teary eyes added that: “My parting message is not a ‘goodbye’, but a ‘see you soon’”.
Despite having worked in various positions within the Lula government, Dilma has a tough and busy road ahead before she takes office on January 1st, 2011. A transition government comprised of fifty employees and with a budget of R$2.8 million will be installed in Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil Cultural Center), which will operate until December 31st in order to provide continuity in ongoing governmental projects.
Her schedule already seems to be set: after a couple of days of rest, she will be accompanying Lula on his trip to Mozambique this weekend; and she is expected to travel along with Lula in eight overseas trips, including destinations such as Korea, Chile, and Argentina, and participate in meetings and negotiations along with the current president.