Japanese Peace Group, Pope Francis Among Picks for Nobel

Pope Francis
Pope Francis leaves at the end of a mass and the celebration on several weddings at St Peter's basilica at the Vatican, on Sept. 14, 2014. Photographer: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

A Japanese group seeking to preserve pacifism in the Asian nation’s constitution and Pope Francis, who has made the fight against poverty a focus of his tenure, are among the top contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Other favorites include Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, Edward Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor who revealed secret surveillance programs, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who defied the Taliban, and Russian media outlets such as Novaya Gazeta, according to bookmakers and researchers. The winner will be announced Oct. 10 in Oslo by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The Peace Research Institute in Oslo, which each year guesses on potential winners, has the “Japanese People Who Conserve Article 9” as its top pick in an updated list today. The group is working to keep Article 9, which prevents Japan from “belligerency,” as part of the nation’s constitution.

“We may have come to think of wars between states as virtually extinct after the end of the Cold War, but events in Ukraine and simmering tensions in East Asia remind us they may reappear,” PRIO said. “A return to a principle often hailed in earlier periods of the Peace Prize would be well timed.”

Past Winners

The prize, along with honors in literature, physics, medicine and chemistry, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901. Laureates include last year’s winner, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as well as the European Union, U.S. President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa. All awards but the peace prize are handed out in Stockholm. The economics prize was instituted by the Swedish central bank.

Pope Francis is favored to win the peace award by bookmakers William Hill Plc. and Paddy Power Plc., with odds of 11-4 and 9-4, respectively. Since his election in March 2013, Francis, 77, has pleaded for a reduction of inequalities on a global basis, including in a message to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Snowden, 31, who was nominated for the prize by two Norwegian lawmakers from the Socialist Left Party, could win for revealing secret surveillance programs by the U.S. National Security Agency in 2013 even though the leaks remain controversial. Snowden, who was granted asylum by Russia as he faces prosecution in the US, has 10-1 odds to win at William Hill and 14-1 at Paddy Power.

Second Pick

Both bookmakers see Mukwege as the second-most likely candidate to win, with odds of 5-1 at Paddy Power and 6-1 at William Hill. Mukwege, 56, is the founder of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of the war-plagued North Kivu province in eastern Congo. The institution specializes in the treatment of women victim of rape by rebel forces.

Yousafzai, the 17-year-old who was shot in the head for defending girls’ educational rights in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, was already regarded as a favorite last year.

Historian Asle Sveen, who has written three books on the Nobel Peace Prize, sees her as this year’s top contender even as she faces odds of at least 14-1.

Perfect Choice

“She’d be the perfect choice to illustrate how young women are treated around the world,” he said by phone Oct. 2. “I thought she was too young last year. But after seeing her appearances at the UN and on talk shows, I’m hugely impressed.”

William Hill and Paddy Power have better odds for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. researcher Gene Sharp, Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Both bookies give 16-1 odds for Novaya Gazeta to win, and the Russian newspaper is listed in both PRIO’s and Sveen’s top five. The tension between Russia and western nations over the conflict in Ukraine could make it easier to award the prize to critics of President Vladimir Putin, Sveen said.

“The relationship is already strained,” he said, meaning the committee may be less worried about consequences for Norway’s relations with Russia four years after the award to dissident Liu Xiaobo hurt ties with China.

While Sveen has Snowden as his second pick, he said the risk of the recipient not being able to accept the prize in Norway for fear of being arrested limited his chances.

Sveen also said Pope Francis was a “completely unrealistic” bet even though the Argentinian cleric has said he wanted to liberalize the Catholic Church.

“He’s the pope,” he said. “It’s his job to be a prince of peace!”

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