Bets are being placed on who will win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Forecasters often consider what issues the Nobel Committee might want to highlight, such as refugees and climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and even peace pacts are seen as having good chances.
Stockholm (dpa) – The guessing game is in full swing for who will win the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and the UN refugee agency surfacing as top contenders after 273 candidates – the second highest tally ever – were nominated.
Not all nominations are known, fuelling speculation and bets ahead of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s announcement on October 9 in Oslo.
Kristian Berg Harpviken – director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, who compiles an annual short list but is not affiliated with the Nobels – tipped an award related to the refugee crisis, singling out Merkel for showing “moral leadership at a critical time.”
“I think it is that combination of moral leadership and at the same time dealing with real hard dilemmas that makes her deserve the prize,” he told dpa.
Merkel has been nominated by German lawmakers for her role in brokering a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, he noted.
Another of his top picks is the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta because of its independent reporting.
The UN refugee agency, a two-time winner, is a strong candidate to take the prize a third time, according to three Norwegian historians who run a website on the Nobel Peace Prize.
One of the trio, Asle Sveen, said the committee might opt to recognize an international treaty, notably the recent deal between Iran and six world powers that is aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting sanctions on Tehran.
The peace treaty being negotiated between the government of Colombia and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerilla movement is another.
“It’s risky. They have done that in the past with Middle East treaties and the Vietnam peace treaty in 1973,” Sveen said of past awards where the committee has tried to influence ongoing processes.
“Latin America as a region has not had a Peace Prize since 1992, and the Colombia treaty has a large chance of success,” he said.
But the final signing of the pact is not due until March, which might dim the Colombia deal’s chances, he said.
Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the committee might wish to highlight that “this is the year of climate,” referring to an international conference planned for December in Paris aimed at reaching a deal on reducing the emissions blamed for global warming.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised and I would be quite pleased to see a climate change-related prize,” he said.
Two candidates in that category whom he mentioned were US climate researcher James Hansen, and Christiana Figueres, who leads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Pope Francis could be a winner if the committee chooses to award social justice, Smith said.
The Nobel Committee advises those making nominations not to reveal their proposals, but there are no formal rules against doing so, explaining why some names have become public, including the pope’s.
The pope was nominated by Norwegian member of parliament Abid Raja, who cited the pope’s engagement for social justice and defence of freedom of religion.
“As a Muslim, it is a great honour to nominate a pope,” Raja said.
Several individuals and organizations that have campaigned against nuclear weapons have also been nominated, including two Japanese nuclear bomb survivors, Sumitero Taniguchi and Setsuko Thurlow, and the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.
The five-member committee has made surprise choices in the past, sometimes generating controversy. The 2009 choice of US President Barack Obama is one recent example after Obama had been in office less than a year. The following year, China was angered over the award to imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo.
An award to Novaya Gazeta or the Russian human rights group Memorial could anger Moscow but would “underline the committee’s independence,” Sveen said.
The committee’s composition has changed since last year’s prize was awarded with Kaci Kullmann Five taking over as chairwoman in March. She is a former Conservative Party leader in Norway and has been a member of the committee since 2003.
Another change is that Olav Njolstad in January assumed the post as non-voting secretary and head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which assists the five-strong panel in vetting candidates nominated for the prize. He succeeded Geir Lundestad, who had held the post since 1990.
Nobel prizes are also awarded in literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics. Each is worth 8 million kronor (956,000 dollars).
The prizes were first presented in 1901 after being endowed by Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel with the exception of the Nobel for economic sciences, which was first awarded in 1969.
The announcements of the awards will begin Monday with the prize for medicine or physiology. It will be followed by the Nobel for physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and economics on October 12.
The date of the literature announcement has yet to be made.