President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy are believed to be among a record 205 nominations for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
The secretive five-member awards committee, which released its final nominations count on Friday, keeps the names of candidates secret for 50 years. But some of the thousands of people with nominating rights do announce their nominees.
‘It is very easy to be nominated for the peace prize, but that is in no way an endorsement by the committee,’ said Geir Lundestad, the Norwegian awards committee’s nonvoting secretary.
The committee said 172 individuals and 33 organisations were on the list by this week’s deadline. The previous record was 199, in 2005.
‘There was a very good geographical spread,’ Lundestad said. The nominations included those postmarked by a Feb 1 deadline, and those added by the committee itself at its first meeting of the year, which was Thursday, he said.
This year, the name of the US president has been put forward by unidentified nominators, although he has been in office only for a few weeks. Lundestad has said in the past that people or groups are sometimes listed simply because nominators like them.
Some might also make a nomination in case their favourites were to accomplish something prize-worthy after the strict deadline. The committee previously confirmed that it had wanted to include president Jimmy Carter in the 1978 Camp David peace award to Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin but could not because he was not nominated in time. Carter won the 2002 prize on his own.
Sarkozy was nominated for peace efforts in the Russia-Georgia conflict and the Middle East. Lundestad refused to comment on specific names, but said thousands of people, ranging from past Nobel peace laureates to many college professors, have nomination rights. Sometimes, dozens might nominate the same candidate, or just one can like a specific person or group.