The Nobel Committee’s chairman has been removed from his post for the first time in the award’s 114-year history. He’s been criticized over a number of the panel’s controversial picks, like US president and the EU.
Ousted Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland, a former Norwegian Labor prime minister, had been in charge of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for six years before he was voted out on Tuesday. He will remain a member of the committee, but the leading role has been passed on to the panel’s deputy chairman, Kaci Kullmann Five, a former conservative party leader.
“There’s a new committee with new people, and new people can always lead to new considerations,” Kullmann Five told journalists. “Jagland has been a good leader for the committee for six years.”
Three out of six prize winners chosen under Thorbjoern Jagland have raised controversy.
Jagland’s first year as chairman in 2009 saw the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to US President Barack Obama, who at that time had only been in office for nine months.
Obama won the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” while the US was engaged in two lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as heightened US drone strikes on suspected militants in Pakistan and Yemen.
The Nobel Prize Committee’s 2012 choice of the European Union as the winner of the award has also raised quite a few eyebrows. Critics pointed out Jagland’s other role as head of the European Council as a potential conflict of interest. Many argued the prize was undeserved because of the EU’s economic and foreign policy failures.
The Norwegian Nobel committee has redefined and remodeled the prize in a manner that it is not consistent with the law, critics said.
A 2010 award to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo led to Beijing freezing diplomatic relations with Oslo.
Jagland’s removal has led to speculations over how much the prize is influenced by politics with the likes of archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk receiving the prize.
Nobel Committee members are appointed by Norway’s parliament according to the power balance there. Rightwing parties won elections in 2013, which gave them a 3-2 majority over Labor on the Peace Prize panel.
“This can be interpreted as an attempt by the conservative government to exert more political control over the committee than has been customary,” Nobel historian Asle Sveen told AFP.