Malala, Clinton mentioned as Nobel peace candidates reach record 259
By Pierre-Henry Deshayes, AFPOSLO -- Pakistani schoolgirl-turned-icon of Taliban resistance Malala Yousafzai, ex-Eastern bloc activists and former U.S. President Bill Clinton are in the running for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, as the Nobel Institute announced a record 259 nominations on Monday.
March 6, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
This year's list of candidates is made up of 209 individuals and 50 organizations, the Nobel Institute said, without disclosing any of the names in line with its rules. The list of nominees is kept secret for 50 years.
But thousands of people are eligible to nominate candidates — including former laureates, members of parliament and government around the world, some university professors and members of certain international organizations — and they can reveal the names they have put forward.
Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was seriously wounded when she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman at point blank range on Oct. 9 for promoting girls' education in Pakistan, is known to be on the list and is seen by some experts as a favorite.
“She is a candidate who embodies several causes: the rights of girls and women, education, youth, and the fight against extremism,” said prize observer Kristian Berg Harpviken, the head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.
But her young age could work against her, others suggested.
“It would be too much of a burden for her,” said Atle Sveen, a historian who specializes in the Nobel Peace Prize.
“She's much too young even though the reasons to honor 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 2013 laureate will be announced in early October and awarded, as tradition dictates, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the Nobel Prizes' founder, philanthropist Alfred Nobel.
The previous record of 241 candidates dated from 2011. “The trend is upward, not every year but almost,” the head of the Institute, Geir Lundestad, said.
“This reflects a growing interest in the prize. The nominations come from the entire world,” he said.
Some of the prize committee's recent choices have been controversial, which may have increased the attention it has received.
Last year the prestigious honor went to the European Union, a controversial choice as the bloc struggles through its worst crisis since its creation.
And in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama received the nod just months after he took office and as the United States was fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year, the Nobel committee could raise the ire of Moscow by honoring activists fighting for rights and liberties in Russia, which suffered the worst crackdown since the fall of the Soviet Union according to Human Rights Watch, or Belarus, often described as Europe's last dictatorship.