OSLO: The Norwegian Nobel Committee says a record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with publicly disclosed candidates including Malala Yousufzai and a US soldier accused of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks.
The secretive committee doesn’t reveal who has been nominated, but those with nomination rights sometimes announce their picks. This year those include Bradley Manning, the US Army private who has admitted sending classified documents to WikiLeaks and 15-year-old Malala who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Swat.Fifty of the nominations were for organisations, the committee said on Monday. The previous record of 241 nominations was in 2011.
Leaders of Colombia and Myanmar are among likely candidates for the award. Former US president Bill Clinton is also a possible candidate for his charitable work.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was certain to be on the list for his efforts to end half a century of conflict with the FARC guerillas, alongside Myanmar’s Thein Sein, who has led a transition from decades of dictatorship, people familiar with the committee’s deliberations said.
“The prize keeps gaining importance and attention,” said Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. “Presidents, prime ministers, former laureates submitted many of the nominations … and we have plenty of new names as well as `old’ ones on the list.”
Malala has become an internationally recognised symbol of resistance to the Taliban’s efforts to deny women education and other rights.
“The youngest winners tend to be in their 30s and a 15-year-old will be a tough one for them to handle,” said Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of Peace Research Institute Oslo, which tracks the Nobel committee’s work.
Yemeni peace and women’s rights activist Tawakkol Karman is the youngest winner, having received the 2011 prize at the age of 32.
Others suggested Malala’s young age could work against her.
“It would be too much of a burden for her,” said Atle Sveen, a historian who specialises in the Nobel Peace Prize.
“She’s much too young even though the reasons to honour her are easy to understand,” he said. “Linna Ben Mhenni (a Tunisian blogger who was mentioned as a possible winner in 2011 when she was 27) almost cracked from nerves when she was nominated. And she (Malala) could become an even bigger target for fanatic Islamists,” he said.
The committee, led by former Norwegian prime minister Thorbjoern Jagland, has drawn protest and extra publicity for the prize in recent years by awarding it to the European Union and US President Barack Obama.Mr Harpviken said the committee would not choose a more conventional candidate such as a peace or democracy activist simply because its past decisions were questioned.
“They’ll pick a candidate with high moral integrity, a high profile and a global reach,” said Mr Harpviken, who listed Malala among his favourites.
“These choices have weakened the reputation of the prize because they resonated very poorly with current sentiment… but Jagland doesn’t mind controversy.”
Other candidates are likely to include Russian dissidents Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Svetlana Gannushkina, a long-time rights activist, and Liliya Shibanova, the head of an independent Russian election watchdog.
Other names known to be on the list are, in no particular order, Coptic Christian Maggie Gobran – dubbed Egypt’s “Mother Teresa” for her work to help the poor in Cairo’s slums – and Denis Mukwege, a pioneering doctor who founded a clinic for rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.—Agencies