Shortly prior to the announcement of the renowned prize in Olso on Friday, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported that the 80-year-old Christian Democratic politician was among a small circle of favourites, which also included human rights activists from China, Russia and Afghanistan.
Last year’s prize was won by US President Barack Obama. The last German winner was former Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was awarded the prize in 1971 for his policy of reconciliation with communist neighbours to the east, known as Ostpolitik.
Though the full list of candidates stretches to 237 names, close observers say the favourites have been narrowed down to a short list.
Kohl was chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 and helped guide the country’s reunification in 1990. Along with former French President François Mitterrand, Kohl is also seen as a key architect of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union.
Also regarded as favourites are the jailed Chinese writer and activist Liu Xiaobo, who would be the first Chinese recipient of the prize, Afghan women’s rights campaigner Sima Samar, and Russian rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina.
Other names on the list include the Dalai Lama and former Czech president Vaclav Havel.
The director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, has reported attempted intimidation by the Chinese government over Liu’s candidacy. Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying threatened in June that there could be “a deterioration in Chinese-Norwegian relations.”
However criticism of Liu has also came from another, more unexpected quarter: some 14 other Chinese dissidents who form part of a “committee of exiles” have said Liu would be an “unsuitable prizewinner,” the New York Times has reported.