By Alister Doyle | Reuters
Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who drafted a plan for supervised independence for Kosovo, are among a near-record 197 nominees for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.
“Of the total, 164 are individuals and 33 are organisations,” Geir Lundestad, head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told Reuters. “This is the second highest number—the most was in 2005 with 199.” The secretive five-member committee met on Tuesday to begin narrowing down the field after nominations closed at the start of February. The 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.62 million) award, which can be split up to three ways, will be announced on Oct. 10.
Those whose nominations have been made public include Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has rebuilt the nation after an Islamist revolt in the 1990s.
Others are former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, for a role in ending the Cold War, and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Others were the artificial language Esperanto, meant to promote international understanding, and PeaceJam, a U.S. based group founded in 1996 which seeks to educate young people about peace with help from past Nobel laureates.
Guardians of the prize often seek a topical winner—Nobel’s will says the prize should honour achievements in the past year. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Climate Panel shared the 2007 prize.
Cuba’s Paya is on the list for the year when Fidel Castro stepped aside after 49 years in power in the Communist Caribbean island. His brother Raul was installed as president on Feb. 25.
“This is a crucial moment. Cuba wants change, the people want change,” Paya said of Fidel Castro’s retirement.
Paya is a past winner of the European Union’s Andrei Sakharov prize for human rights in 2002 and has called for national dialogue on a peaceful transition to democracy.