The winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo this Friday, Oct. 12, meaning that it's time for the media's annual round of speculation. The consensus favorite this year seems to be American political scientist and head of the Boston-based Albert Einstein Institution (as well as FP Global Thinker) Gene Sharp, whose writings on nonviolent protest were influential on democratic uprisings in Eastern Europe as well as the recent Arab Spring protests (though some Egyptian activists bristled at the suggestion that they owed their revolution to a political theorist thousands of miles away). Irish betting site Paddy Power gives 6-4 odds for Sharp. He's also considered the favorite by Nobel Peace Prize-watcher Kristian Berg Harpviken of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), who publishes an annual shortlist of likely contenders.
One small caveat: These predictions are almost always wrong.
In the 10 years that PRIO has been publishing its list, Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 are the only favorites who have won. One of last year's winners, Leymah Gbowee, was one of Paddy Power's top names last year, though her co-awardees, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkol Karman, were not. Bizarrely, last year the site gave 4-1 odds for Aung San Suu Kyi, who already won the award in 1991.
But all the same, here's a look at a few of the other possible winners among the 231 names nominated this year.
Both Harpviken and the betting markets like the chances of the Russian human rights group Memorial, which has worked tirelessly since the late 1980s to both document Soviet-era atrocities and monitor abuses in contemporary Russia. The head of its Chechnya office, Natalya Estemirova, was abducted and murdered in 2009. Mathematician and rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, one of Memorial's co-founders, has been mentioned as a favorite in the past and was nominated again this year. Harpviken also suggests that the independent Ekho Moskvy radio station could win, if the Norwegian Nobel Committee decides to emphasize media freedom this year.
Sima Samar, a woman's rights activist and burqa opponent who has served as chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan, and Afghanistan's minister of women's affairs, is a perennial favorite for the award and Paddy Power's second favorite at 5-2 odds after Sharp this year. With the United States preparing for withdrawal from Afghanistan, Samar could put the spotlight on the fate of Afghan women.
Mideast Internet activists
The betting markets like the odds of Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni (10-1), Egyptian Google executive-turned-revolutionary Wael Ghonim (12-1), and April 6 Youth Movement co-founder Israa Abdel Fattah (25-1). They would be the first primarily online activists to win, and their wins could be seen as a message to their countries' new governments about the importance of freedom of speech. On the other hand, both Mhenni and Ghonim were nominated last year, which might have seemed the more logical time to recognize their efforts.