Norway populist's Nobel committee bid appears blocked

Oslo (AFP) –


A controversial former leader of Norway's anti-immigration party on Thursday saw his chances of joining the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize fade, due to other parties' opposition.

The Norwegian parliament, which is tasked with electing the five members of the prestigious panel, was supposed to renew three of the positions on Friday.

The populist right-wing Progress Party, currently a junior partner in Norway's two-party coalition, has proposed its outspoken party leader Carl I. Hagen, for one of the seats.

But a majority of the other parties in parliament vehemently objected to his candidacy.

Claiming that they wanted to underline the Nobel committee's independence from the state, the parties this week hastily adopted a rule barring members of parliament and their substitutes from sitting on the committee.

Hagen is a substitute MP. Still, the Progress Party wanted his name to be put forward for a vote.

"There's no reason to believe that Carl I. Hagen will be elected," the speaker of parliament, Olemic Thommessen, said Thursday, seemingly dashing the Progress Party's hopes.

The Progress Party has so far refused to consider an alternative candidate.

Aged 73, Hagen is known for his inflammatory rhetoric. He once said that "a society without ethnic minorities is a harmonious society."

The need to stress the Nobel committee's independence from political wrangling was highlighted by a diplomatic crisis that erupted between China and Norway after Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

While the composition of the Nobel committee must reflect the balance of power in parliament, never before has a party's choice for a seat on the committee been questioned by the other parties.

"It's increasingly clear that this is not about principles, but about the person Carl I. Hagen," the leader of the Progress Party's parliamentary group, Hans Andreas Limi, said.

In a rare move, the current and a former Nobel committee secretary have also opposed Hagen's candidacy.

In addition, parliament decided Tuesday to examine, at a later date, whether members of the committee can also serve in leading positions with international organisations.

That could be problematic for former Labour Party leader Thorbjorn Jagland, who is a member of the committee and the secretary general of the Council of Europe.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize at a formal ceremony in Oslo on Sunday.