As always, the press is exploring any signs or clues that could reveal who is in line for the prize. As Gwladys Fouche reports in Reuters, Thorbjørn Jagland, the chairman of the Peace Prize-awarding committee (officially known as the Norwegian Nobel Committee), says this year’s prize will be as interesting as the two others that have been awarded under his leadership. Given that the last two prizes went to the imprisoned Chinese writer and activist Liu Xiaobo, prompting a strident response from state authorities, and to President Barack Obama, less than a year into his term of office, all eyes are sure to be on Oslo next Friday to see whose names are read out.
The smart money, perhaps not surprisingly, seems to be on the Arab Spring. However, who could receive this prize is more difficult matter. Another Reuters article by Fouche has claims from the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s secretary Geir Lundestad there are “a few” candidates linked to the Arab Spring among this year’s nominees, though he declined to name them.
A regular in the pre-announcement guessing game is Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, and he tells Forbes that the Egyptian activists Israa Abdel Fattah, Ahmed Maher and the April 6 Youth Movement Facebook group they co-founded, would top his list of candidates. Other possible candidates are Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing executive, who galvanized protests on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni who began criticizing the Tunisian regime before the uprising began in December last year.
Although nominations are meant to be kept secret for 50 years, Peace Prize nominators tend to have looser lips than those for the other prizes. The Norwegian Nobel Committee does release the number of nominations — there’s a record 241 candidates (of which 53 are organizations) for this year’s prize – but every year a handful of nominators decide to make their choices public. The Peace Research Institute Oslo has a list of the leaked nominations as well as some speculative names. Among the known nominees this year is the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its head Julian Assange. Their response? Well, you can see for yourself in this tweet.
Meanwhile, the future of the Confucius Prize, set up as a Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, appears to have been thrown into doubt. Launched just days before the Peace Prize went to Liu Xiaobo, it is now claimed that the organizers didn’t seek permission from China’s Ministry of Culture to offer the prize. As the Daily Telegraph reports, the decision to ban the prize means that Lien Chan, a former vice president of Taiwan, could go down in history as its first and only winner. However, the Wall Street Journal quotes Confucius Peace Prize executive chairman Liu Haofeng as saying that another group under China’s Ministry of Culture plans to offer a similar award next year, called the Confucius World Peace Prize.