Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Missing Pieces: Mexico’s Presidential Race, Africa’s Progress, and More

by Isobel Coleman
February 13, 2012

Josefina Vázquez Mota celebrates with her campaign team after winning the primary election to be the National Action Party's candidate for president, in Mexico City, February 5, 2012 (Bernardo Montoya/Courtesy Reuters).


Charles Landow ranges from Mexico to the Maldives and from corruption to constitutions in this week’s Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

  • Mexico’s Potential Presidenta: Josefina Vázquez Mota became Mexico’s first female major-party presidential nominee with her victory in the National Action Party (PAN) primary last weekend. She has served as secretary of public education, secretary of social development, and head of the PAN contingent in Mexico’s lower house. CFR’s Shannon O’Neil writes on that Vázquez Mota’s gender will make her the candidate of change, even though the PAN has held the presidency for twelve years. She starts out behind Enrique Peña Nieto, former governor of the state of Mexico. But he has proved prone to cringe-worthy gaffes, including a December remark that opened him to charges of sexism.
  • Africa’s Progress: Dambisa Moyo, the Zambian-born author known for her stinging critique of foreign assistance in 2009’s Dead Aid, argued last week in the Financial Times that Africa is thriving by following the solid capitalist practices “that the rest of the world forgot.” Attractive investment opportunities, auspicious demographics, and strong efforts to fight corruption and bolster the rule of law have the continent poised for growth, Moyo writes. One promising initiative on corruption comes from Kenya, where citizens are recounting their experiences with bribery on a new website called ipaidabribe, inspired by a similar site in India. Individual names are blocked, but the aggregation of reports about the most corrupt agencies could be a powerful tool for cleaner public services. A Washington Post piece last week profiled the site and its founder, and a recent article in Kenya’s The Star reviewed many interesting tales.
  • Moscow and the Maldives: Two former presidents published op-eds last Wednesday. The first is deposed president Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. He writes in the New York Times that his resignation last week was in fact a coup with important lessons for other nascent Muslim-majority democracies. The other is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia. He seeks in the Washington Post to recast himself as a corruption-busting democrat who deserves a return to the presidency. Both articles are worth reading.
  • India’s Problematic Police: The Wall Street Journal examines India’s “fake encounters,” or murders disguised as self-defense shootings by the police. The practice dates from the 1990s, when teams of officers competed to take out Mumbai’s notorious gangsters. Sometimes, according to the Journal, they just wanted to bag criminals; other times they took money to help corrupt parties settle their scores. Though India’s government is trying to clean up its police, some citizens apparently approve of the extra-judicial killings as a useful “shortcut” around the country’s dysfunctional courts.
  • Constitutional Inspiration: As Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia try to craft new constitutions for a more democratic era, a New York Times article suggests that the U.S. constitution’s global influence is slipping. The piece cites a forthcoming study showing that other democratic constitutions are becoming less and less similar to America’s. The U.S. constitution guarantees some rights not highly valued today, while omitting others now considered crucial, the Times reports. Of course, who writes a new constitution and how the process unfolds determine what ends up in the text. Scholars such as Jennifer Widner and Tom Ginsburg and others have explored these issues.

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