Unlike major Hollywood awards ceremonies where it’s really an honor to be nominated, the Nobel Peace Prize accepts submissions from a potential pool of thousands of nominees.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects the winner, does not announce the nominees or those who nominated them until 50 years later, so that participants can report their contributions at their own discretion.
After the deadline for this year’s nominations last Sunday, Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian dissident leader; Greta Thunberg, the youth activist for climate change; and the World Health Organization were among the nominees, Reuters reported.
Also mentioned were Stacey Abrams, the former Georgian politician who was credited with increasing voter turnout last year, and Jared Kushner, son-in-law and advisor to former President Donald J. Trump. (Mr Trump himself has been nominated for the award in at least two years of his presidency – with no two nominations faked in 2018.)
Reuters polled Norwegian lawmakers “who have been shown to have chosen the winner”.
The list of those who can submit nominations is long, including members of national governments. Officials of international peace organizations; University professors in history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology and religion; and former recipients.
The Nobel Committee says the large number of potential nominators ensures a “wide variety of candidates,” but the group is excited about the process and has not responded to a request for clarification on the suitability of nominators.
In 1967, the last year available in the Nobel Committee Archives, 95 nominations were received (an individual or group can be nominated multiple times in the same year). The committee said there were 318 submissions last year, up from a record 376 in 2016.
There are few criteria for nominees, and the process has sometimes been exploited for naked political reasons.
As is well known, an anti-fascist legislator from Sweden nominated Adolf Hitler in 1939 in an act of satire. He “never wanted his submission to be taken seriously,” says a note on his nomination in the archive.
Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, was nominated twice in 1945 and 1948. Benito Mussolini, the Italian ruler, was nominated twice in 1935.
The selection process for determining a recipient is much more rigorous. The committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament will deliberate in secret from February. The group limits submissions to a “short list” of 20 to 30 candidates prior to months of examination. The recipient will be announced in October.
The Nobel Committee has stressed that nominations are not an endorsement of the group and “must not be used to imply membership of the Nobel Peace Prize”.
But Mr Trump provides an example of how nominations themselves can be used to gain influence.
In 2019, Mr Trump announced to his supporters that he had been nominated by then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a claim Mr Abe would not confirm. (This year’s award went to Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia.)
Last year, after two European leaders said they had nominated Mr. Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called it “a hard-earned and well-deserved honor for this president.”
The 2020 award was later awarded to the World Food Program.
Mr Trump was actually nominated by two right-wing Scandinavian MPs. For his followers, however, the personal politics of the nominators or their low likelihood of receiving the award were less important than their looks.
“Every day Donald Trump is nominated for another Nobel Prize,” beamed Fox News presenter Laura Ingraham on her show. “It is obvious that Trump should receive the Nobel Prize.”
At a campaign event in October, Mr Trump complained that his nomination received less coverage than his predecessor’s. (President Barack Obama actually received the award in 2009.)
“I was just nominated for the Nobel Prize,” he said. “And then I turned on the fake news story by story. They talk about your weather on the panhandle and they talk about it. Story after story, no mention. Do you remember when Obama got it right in the beginning and didn’t even know why he got it? “
The award for Mr Obama, just nine months into his first term, was received with surprise and confusion even by the recipient.
“To be honest,” Obama said afterwards, “I don’t feel like I deserve to be with so many of the transformative personalities who have won this award, men and women who inspire and inspire me have the whole world through their courageous pursuit of peace. “