Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Friday shocked the world.
But a peek at the backgrounds of the five people who made the selection gives a clue why the prize panel would be so favorably disposed to Obama – three of them would be considered hard-left liberals in American politics. One of those belongs to Norway’s Socialist Left party.
And all five people on the committee are politicians selected by the Norwegian parliament, and generally hew to a Norwegian view of foreign affairs — internationalist in outlook and with a broad affinity for Obama’s posture on the world stage.
“Obama’s speech at the United Nations was received very positively, and falls right in line with the way Norwegians see their own foreign policy,” said Terje Leiren, a professor of Norwegian studies at the University of North Texas.
The other two members are Norway’s version of Republicans. The committee said Friday that the vote for Obama was unanimous.
Thorbjørn Jagland, the chair of the Nobel Committee, is a former Norwegian Prime Minister, and a former head of the Norwegian Labor Party, which is the largest political party in the country.
Leiren explained to POLITICO that the Norwegian Labor party is center-left politically, much like the British Labor Party was before Tony Blair pushed it toward the ideological center in the 1990s. “All of the parties on the left in Norway are ‘evolutionary’ socialist parties,” explained Leiren. “They believe that socialism evolves, and you do that in a democratic way.”
Leiren said that’s a distinction from “revolutionary” socialists who favor tearing down democratic governments, and who are not represented in the mainstream of Norwegian politics.
“The role of government is seen positively in the Labor Party and among Norwegian socialists,” Leiren said. And Jagland himself, the professor said, “is in the center part of the Labor party, he’s not a radical in any way.”
Another member of the committee, Sissel Marie Rønbeck, is a member of the Labor Party.
The third left-leaning politican on the Nobel committee is Ågot Valle, a member of the Socialist Left, a party that pushes for environmental causes and increases in social spending.
There are two right-of-center politicians on the committee: Kaci Kullmann Five, a member of the Conservative Party, which would be most parallel in American terms to the Rockefeller strain of old-line, pro-business moderate Republicanism.
And finally, the committee includes Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a member of the right-wing Progress Party, which pushes for lower taxes and restrictions on immigration.