Pope Francis to Merkel: Seven favourites for the Nobel Peace Prize

  • Aditya Iyer, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 09, 2015 09:08 IST
Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among the contenders for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. (AP Photo)

The Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced on Friday, has always been tough to predict given the Oslo-based committee’s inscrutable process, but that hasn’t ever stopped the speculation.

Top betting sites including Ladbrokes have come out with their lists of odds-on favourites. Mind you, they have often badly failed to predict surprises, like when Barack Obama was awarded the prize a few months into his tenure, or in 2012, when the European Union won the prize. But it would still be worthwhile going through their lists to get a general idea on who could be in the running.

The peace prize has often been a politically-charged affair. And while the decision process is meant to be neutral, the fact that the former Labour-affiliated chairman was recently ousted by the centre-right Kaci Kullmann Five will ensure that, in Norway at least, the outcome will be heavily scrutinised.

Here is a list of odds-on favourites for this year.

Pope Francis

(EPA Photo)

The pontiff became a strong contender for the prize after it was revealed that he had played a significant role in easing hostilities between the United States and Cuba; a role that Francis embraced further during his historic trip to the two Cold War enemies last month. With his image of being a most unusual Pope, speaking out against sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy or against climate change in his speech at the United Nations, the Argentina-born pontiff has a good shot at receiving the prize. His adherence to the Vatican’s orthodox views against women becoming priests, however, may hurt his chances.

Angela Merkel

(Mohammad Zakir/ HT Photo)

The formidable German chancellor who has led her country to an unprecedented level of economic prosperity boosted her chances of receiving the Nobel Prize with her response to the European refugee crisis. There were extraordinary scenes at German bus stops and railway stations after Merkel opened her borders and welcomed those fleeing from war-torn Syria (there are currently 800,000 Syrian refugees in Germany), with Germans welcoming the refugees with open arms. The tensions her actions have caused among Europe’s leaders may, however, count against her. And there is the further complication of Greece, who, with a crippled economy largely perceived to be because of Germany’s hard stance against her debt, would be none too pleased to hear her name being announced on Friday.

John Kerry and Mohammad Javed Zarif

(AP Photo)

Before Europe’s migrant crisis blew up, the Iranian nuclear deal was the great world affair that everyone was talking about. US secretary of state John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javed Zarif spent more than two years in close consultation; almost incredible when one thinks of the hostility the two countries have towards each other. With the deal being hailed as a victory for tenacious diplomacy, and having passed through the crucibles of a US Congress and Iranian review, Kerry and Zarif’s achievement may well warrant the Nobel Prize.

Mussie Zerai

(AFP Photo)

A long-time contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, Zerai is the Ethiopian priest who set up a hotline for refugees making the perilous journey to Europe both from his country and outside. A sort of everyman figure, Zerai has become an international advocate for refugees; two facts will certainly stand him in good stead in the eyes of the Nobel committee. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power on Tuesday had his odds at 6/1, along with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Denis Mukwege

(Photo courtesy: http://www.panzifoundation.org/)

Denis Mukwege has been on a long and often lonely crusade against the rape and sexual torture of women and children in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. A gynaecologist who treats rape victims , he received the prestigious Sakhurov prize for human rights in 2014 from the European Union in recognition for his work, which has often been dangerous. He survived an assassination attempt in 2012 when four gunmen stormed his house and held his daughter hostage. “I realise this type of violence has little to do with sex, and much more with power through a sort of terrorism,” he said in an interview with the Guardian in May.

Victor Ochen

(Photo courtesy: http://www.africanyouthinitiative.org/)

33-year-old Ochen is a survivor of the instability that has plagued his home country Uganda since independence (his elder brother was abducted by the notoriously brutal Lord’s Resistance Army). Ochen is the founder of the African Youth Initiative Network, which helps treat fellow child victims of Uganda’s often senseless violence.

Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez

(AP Photo)

An outside choice, both men are highly controversial figures, and certainly have blood on their hands. But the tentative peace deal that Colombian President Santos has managed to eke out with the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Jiminez, has the potential to end the longest insurgency in the world.

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