Most members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee initially argued against awarding the 2009 Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama before agreeing to the choice, Norway’s top-selling daily Verdens Gang (VG) said yesterday.
The paper said three of five members had objections during the early phases of the process, but were persuaded in favour of Obama mainly by the chairman of the committee, former Prime Minister Thorbjoern Jagland.
It cited anonymous sources for a rare leak of the committee’s work, meant to be kept secret for 50 years. Committee members are appointed by Norway’s parliament but are meant to act independently.
Obama was awarded the prestigious prize on October 9 for efforts to “strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people”. The decision was met with a mixture of praise and scepticism, and Obama himself said he was “surprised”.
The tabloid daily said all members believed Obama had taken solid initiatives towards nuclear disarmament and reconciliation. The discussion was rather about whether Obama had achieved enough in nine months in office.
VG said one of the newly elected members, Aagot Valle from the Socialist Left Party, had strong objections to giving the prize to Obama.
“I had expected a debate, especially around the issues I find problematic, the war in Afghanistan,” Valle told daily Bergens Tidende earlier this week.
Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a former member of parliament for the opposition right-wing Progress Party, believed it was too early for Obama to win the prize, according to the paper.
Kaci Kullman Five, the Conservative Party’s leader from 1991-94, also voiced opinions against the decision, VG said.
“The decision was unanimous,” Jagland said when announcing the prize. Jagland, from the ruling Labour Party, was recently elected Secretary-General to the Council of Europe.
Jagland had strongly supported Obama as his top choice, VG said. It said he was apparently supported throughout by the other Labour appointee, Sissel Marie Roenbeck.
Jagland is known in Norway for liking dramatic gestures but is prone to gaffes.
When Jagland was prime minister in 1997, Labour lost power after he rashly said Labour would quit if it failed in an election to get 36.9 % of the vote, matching a result in 1993. Labour fell just short and he stood down.
Pic: US President Barack Obama