By Alister Doyle
OSLO (Reuters) – Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is among favorites to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday from a record field including a Chinese dissident and an Afghan human rights activist, Norway’s NRK television said.
The prize, widely viewed as the world’s top accolade, will be announced in Oslo at 11 a.m. (0900 GMT) at the Nobel Institute by Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister who heads the five-member committee.
“Will the peace prize go to Tsvangirai?” public broadcaster NRK asked in a headline over a story about the prize on Thursday evening with a large picture of the prime minister on its website.
A prize could strengthen Tsvangirai’s hand in an uneasy unity government with President Robert Mugabe, whom Norway’s government has blamed for “years of misrule, embezzlement and hyperinflation.”
Norway resumed aid to Zimbabwe this year after a break since 2000 and Tsvangirai visited Oslo in June.
NRK most often correctly focuses on the winner of the $1.4 million prize on the eve of the prize announcement. It denies getting leaks, but said the 2009 prize would go to an individual among a record 205 candidates, rather than to an organization.
“It’s always exciting to see how the prize is received both here at home and also in the rest of the world,” committee chairman Jagland said.
NRK said that Chinese dissident Hu Jia, was among the bookmakers’ favorites, but it said that “several experts” doubted he could win. It might be a bad time to give the prize to a dissident when the United States wanted closer ties with China.
From Colombia, peace broker Piedad Cordoba is also among tips but NRK noted that she had been criticised for close ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
French Colombian activist and former hostage Ingrid Betancourt, freed last year after more than five years in captivity, was also among favorites.
And NRK said that Afghan rights activist Sima Samar and Jordanian interfaith dialogue advocate Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad were among the final names considered.
NRK did not mention any other candidates — including U.S. President Barack Obama who is also among the bookmakers’ front-runners. Norwegian independent TV2 said that Obama could be a strong candidate.
Last year, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari won for three decades of work to resolve numerous international conflicts.
(Editing by Charles Dick)