Obama, Sarkozy among 2009 Nobel Peace Prize contenders


New Member
Feb 16, 2009
A record 205 candidates are in the running for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Institute said on Friday, with US President Barak Obama and France's Nicolas Sarkozy known to be on the list.

"We have received the names of 205 candidates, including 33 organisations," Geir Lundestad, the head of the Nobel Institute, told AFP.

"This is a new record," exceeding the 199 candidates competing for the prestigious prize in 2005, he said.

The names of nominees are kept secret by the institute for 50 years. But those who are entitled to nominate are allowed to reveal the name of the person or organisation they have proposed, if they wish to do so.

Both Obama and Sarkozy are already known to be on the list, although observers say it is unclear if either leader has a real shot at winning the much-coveted laurel.

"They have yet to do anything very remarkable on issues regarding war and peace," said Gunnar Soerboe, who heads up the Christian Michelsen Institute, which specialises in peace and development research.

"Sarkozy has clearly been very active on the international stage, in Georgia and in the Middle East where he has tried to help bring an end to the Gaza war, but he has yet to truly show a breakthrough," he told AFP.

"In time, if he continues to make progress, he could become a credible candidate, but that day has yet to come."

Being nominated says little about whether a person or organisation is actually likely to win, since nominations reflect only the views of those who propose the candidates and not those of the institute, Lundestad said.

Thousands of people are eligible to submit nominations, including members of parliament and government worldwide, university professors, previous laureates and members of several international institutes.

The Nobel Committee that awards the prize is also eligible to nominate candidates.

"It is very easy to make it to the list of candidates. All you have to do is ask any member of parliament to propose your candidacy," Stein Toennesson, head of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), told AFP.

He pointed out that the most high-profile candidates did not always figure among the most likely winners.

"Oftentimes the most interesting candidates are the ones who are not made public," he said.

Other known contenders for this year's prize include former French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and Chinese dissident Hu Jia.

The fact that Hu Jia, who was considered a front-runner for the 2008 prize, is back on this year's list risks angering Beijing, which reacts vehemently each time a Chinese dissident is mentioned as a candidate.

The Cluster Munitions Coalition is also known to be on the list after it played a central role in getting nearly 100 countries to sign a treaty last year in Oslo banning cluster bombs.

This year, Lundestad said, "we have candidates of very diverse geographical origins, probably because recent laureates have come from all over the world."

"The fact that we have expanded the concept of peace (to include for instance the fights against climate change and poverty) has also contributed to the increase" in contenders, he added.

The name of the winner will be announced in early October, and the award will be presented at a formal ceremony held -- as tradition dictates -- on December 10.

Last year's winner was former Finnish president and career diplomat Martti Ahtisaari for his efforts on several continents, over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts

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