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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Showing posts for "Democratization"

Democracy Can Still Deliver

by Isobel Coleman
A voter waits to cast his ballot in Bekkersdal, near Johannesburg, May 7, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters) A voter waits to cast his ballot in Bekkersdal, near Johannesburg, May 7, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters)

Democracy is going through a rough patch. Freedom House reports that the number of democracies around the world has retreated in recent years. The frightening turbulence in countries struggling to transition to democracy such as Egypt and Thailand makes clear how difficult that process is. And with economic malaise persisting in many democracies while growth still surges in autocratic China, more than a few people wonder whether it’s even worth bothering with democracy and all its political dysfunctions. Can democracies effectively meet the aspirations of citizens in today’s complex world? Read more »

Algeria’s Presidential Election and the Challenges Ahead

by Isobel Coleman
A woman stands at a bus stop beside election campaign posters of Algerian president and presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika at Bab El Oued district in Algiers, April 14, 2014. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters) A woman stands at a bus stop beside election campaign posters of Algerian president and presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika at Bab El Oued district in Algiers, April 14, 2014. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters)

Algerians head to the polls today to vote in presidential elections. Although six candidates are running, the country’s long-serving president, seventy-seven year old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is expected to coast to a fourth term. In a region rife with revolution, Algeria is caught in a political time warp. The ruling elite swim against the tide of political change that the Arab uprisings unleashed. They rally around the ailing Bouteflika–who suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public during the campaign–as the candidate of stability and security. Read more »

Afghans Vote for a New President

by Isobel Coleman
A man loads ballot boxes and other election materials on a donkey to be transported to polling stations that are not accessible by road in Shutul, Panjshir province, Afghanistan, April 4, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood). A man loads ballot boxes and other election materials on a donkey to be transported to polling stations that are not accessible by road in Shutul, Panjshir province, Afghanistan, April 4, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood).

Despite significant security concerns, Afghans went to the polls in droves on Saturday to elect a new president. An estimated 7 million voters, one-third of them women, cast ballots – a marked improvement over the 2009 elections in which only 4 million voted. Fraud and violence also occurred less than expected: while at least twenty people were killed across the country and numerous fraud complaints have been filed, there were no major attacks or allegations of foul play on the level of the 2009 election. Read more »

Supporting Tunisia

by Isobel Coleman
U.S. President Barack Obama and Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa speak to each other in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 4, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Larry Downing). U.S. President Barack Obama and Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa speak to each other in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 4, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Larry Downing).

Following his meeting today with Tunisia’s Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, President Obama announced $500 million in new loan guarantees that will allow Tunisia to access additional financing in international markets at favorable rates. This is good news for Tunisia, which has made more progress than any other “Arab Spring” country in its transition to democracy. Indeed, it has become an oasis of optimism in an otherwise tumultuous region. Read more »

Education and Egypt’s New Constitution

by Isobel Coleman
An Egyptian soldier opens a box of ballots before officials count them after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, Egypt, January 15, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany). An Egyptian soldier opens a box of ballots before officials count them after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, Egypt, January 15, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany).

Last week, Egyptians approved a new constitution with a Mubarak-like 98 percent yes-vote in a referendum.  Many observers have been critical of the constitution, noting that it gives unprecedented powers to the military and fails to protect important human rights. Others, however, see it as cause for celebration, citing the document’s provisions on gender equality, religious freedom, and secularism as important steps forward.  A relatively low voter turnout of less than 40 percent combined with ongoing deep divisions in society over several constitutional clauses make it unclear how effectively the new constitution will be implemented or how long it will last.  But one element of the constitution should have the strong backing of all Egyptians – the little-noticed new provisions on education. Read more »

Tunisia Update: What to Expect from the New Constitution

by Isobel Coleman
A Tunisian boy waves a flag during a rally in Tunis marking the third anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, December 17, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi). A Tunisian boy waves a flag during a rally in Tunis marking the third anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, December 17, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi).

This week, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) is voting on a new constitution. Two-thirds of the articles have already passed, and the approval process should be done by next week. Read more »

Is Kuwait Ready for a Female Judge?

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
A policewoman guides a female voter at a polling center during the 2012 parliamentary elections in Jahra, Kuwait, February 2, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stephanie McGehee). A policewoman guides a female voter at a polling center during the 2012 parliamentary elections in Jahra, Kuwait, February 2, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stephanie McGehee).

This guest post is by Alessandra L. González, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University and author of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait: The Politics and Paradoxes. Here she discusses the likelihood of women becoming judges in Kuwait. Read more »

Egypt’s New Constitution, Again

by Isobel Coleman
Members of Egypt's constitutional assembly finish their vote during the closing session at the Shura Council in Cairo, Egypt, December 1, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). Members of Egypt's constitutional assembly finish their vote during the closing session at the Shura Council in Cairo, Egypt, December 1, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier today, Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour received a final draft of the country’s new constitution from the committee tasked with making revisions to the one approved just a year ago. Read more »

Egypt: Another Step Backward on Civil Society

by Isobel Coleman
Egyptian soldiers stand guard near Rabaa al-Adawiya square during a protest by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo, Egypt, October 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh). Egyptian soldiers stand guard near Rabaa al-Adawiya square during a protest by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo, Egypt, October 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh).

Last month, Egypt’s interim ministry of justice proposed a law that would severely restrict Egyptians’ right to protest and assemble. If signed into law, the drafted legislation would give authorities the ability to cancel and violently crackdown on demonstrations without clear reason or warning. Read more »

Why There Is “No Exit from Pakistan”

by Isobel Coleman
The Pakistan-Afghanistan border, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Naseer Ahmed). The Pakistan-Afghanistan border, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Naseer Ahmed).

Last week, my colleague Daniel Markey published his latest book: No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad. The book is a timely, if sober, reminder that Pakistan is too big and too messy to fix, yet too strategic to ignore, much as some U.S. policymakers would like to. Read more »