Change looms for Nobel Peace Prize as chairman risks coup

Thu Oct 2, 2014 9:37am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Alister Doyle, Balazs Koranyi and Alistair Scrutton

OSLO/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee risks a unprecedented demotion after announcing the 2014 winner next week, part of wider changes that could both tilt the award to the right and dim chances for future U.S. presidents to win.

The Nobel season of the world's most coveted awards, each worth $1.1 million, opens on Monday with the medicine or physiology prize followed by physics, chemistry, peace and economics. The date for the literature prize has not been set.

Pope Francis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, ex-U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden and Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who helps rape victims, are among bookmakers' favorites from a record field of 278 nominees for the peace prize.

In a shift that could influence future peace awards, Thorbjoern Jagland, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and a former Labor Prime Minister, risks being deposed by right-wing rivals after he announces the winner on Friday, Oct. 10.

Norway's parliament appoints the five-member committee and the Conservative-led coalition that won power in elections in 2013 will gain a 3-2 majority on the committee from 2015, reversing a 3-2 center-left majority under Jagland since 2009.

That could mean more prizes favored by Norway's right-wing, perhaps to little-known individuals fighting for democracy or human rights. Jagland seems to favor sweeping awards with a political flavor, including to U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009 or the European Union in 2012.

Conservatives say Jagland has a conflict of interest since he is also Secretary-General of the 47-nation Council of Europe, which promotes human rights across the continent. It wants him to stay as a committee member, but not chair.

"The time has now come to create the necessary distance between the prize committee and politicians," said Janne Haaland Matlary of Oslo University, a former deputy foreign minister who is a member of the Conservative Party.   Continued...

Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland speaks in Oslo City Hall during Nobel Peace Prize ceremony December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Heiko Jung /NTB scanpix