Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

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

Libya’s Election Milestone

by Isobel Coleman Monday, July 9, 2012
A man carries ballot boxes after collecting them from different polling stations in Tripoli, Libya on July 8, 2012 (Ismail Zetouni/Courtesy Reuters). A man carries ballot boxes after collecting them from different polling stations in Tripoli, Libya on July 8, 2012 (Ismail Zetouni/Courtesy Reuters).

In a successful and largely peaceful election that took place over the weekend, nearly 1.8 million Libyans, or about 65 percent of registered voters, cast their ballots at almost 1,500 polling stations. As I write on CFR.org today: Read more »

Libya’s National Assembly Elections

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, July 5, 2012
Workers put up an election campaign poster of an independent candidate in Benghazi, Libya on July 4, 2012 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Workers put up an election campaign poster of an independent candidate in Benghazi, Libya on July 4, 2012 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Although Libyan officials earlier postponed National Assembly elections by 18 days for organizational reasons, they have stuck to their new deadline. On July 7, some 2.8 million registered voters in a country of about 6.7 million people are expected to head to the polls in the country’s first national post-Gaddafi election. As I’ve written previously, Libya has made substantial progress in its political transition while facing significant ongoing challenges, including controlling militias and dealing with regional tensions. This Saturday, Libyans will vote for the 200 people who will comprise the National Assembly. Eighty seats are reserved for political parties and the other 120 seats will go to individual candidates. The scale and complexity of the election are notable: around 3,700 candidates are running and more than 140 political parties and civil society organizations are involved. The National Assembly will play an important role in moving the country forward as it will be tasked with appointing a prime minister and a group to write a new constitution. Read more »

Food Crisis in the Sahel

by Isobel Coleman Wednesday, July 4, 2012
The Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania on May 23, 2012. The Mbera camp was set up for people fleeing violence in northern Mali (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters). The Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania on May 23, 2012. The Mbera camp was set up for people fleeing violence in northern Mali (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters).

A massive food crisis is brewing in Africa’s Sahel. Already, some 18 million people in the Sahel region are confronting a severe food shortage. The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe. A recent primer from the World Food Programme (WFP) draws attention to the precarious food situations in eight Sahel countries. In Gambia, crop production has declined by more than 60 percent since 2010. An estimated 3.5 million people face hunger in Chad, and that country’s remoteness makes aid distribution especially challenging. Ongoing conflict in Mali, where 1.7 million people face hunger, has forced 320,000 people to flee their homes. Tens of thousands of them are now taking refuge in other food insecure countries. Read more »

Egypt’s Post-Election Economy

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, July 3, 2012
A bread seller makes a victory sign in Tahrir Square after the end of voting in the presidential election in Cairo, Egypt on June 18, 2012 (Steve Crisp/Courtesy Reuters). A bread seller makes a victory sign in Tahrir Square after the end of voting in the presidential election in Cairo, Egypt on June 18, 2012 (Steve Crisp/Courtesy Reuters).

Recently, I spoke with American Public Media’s Marketplace Morning Report about Egypt’s economic challenges. For the past year, Egypt has been staying afloat by drawing down its foreign currency reserves; promises of international loans have largely failed to materialize; instability has led to sharp declines in foreign direct investment and tourism, an important source of employment and hard currency. However, Mohamed Morsi’s recent election means that Egypt can begin making more headway on its economic challenges as greater political certainty should open Egypt up to investment, donor funds, and tourism. In particular, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seems likely to extend a $3.2 billion loan to Egypt after months of discussion—a loan that Egypt desperately needs. To hear more of my take on the current state of Egypt’s economy, you can listen to my interview on Marketplace Morning Report here.