There is no way to know who will win theÂ 2015 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, yet that hasn't stopped experts & online oddsmakers from speculating.
The prestigious prize is awarded by the five-person Norwegian Nobel Committee, whose members are appointed by the Norway's parliament. The process is extremely secretive â€” the committee doesn't even disclose who it's considering. All that is known for certain is that 276 nominations have been submitted this year.
Nevertheless, based on Nobel history & global affairs, analysts & expertsÂ have made theirÂ predictions approximately whoÂ will take home this year's prize andÂ affirmÂ their place in the annals of history.Â
With millions fleeing violence & poverty in Africa & the Middle East & hundreds of thousands crossingÂ the MediterraneanÂ into Europe, theÂ refugee crisis has become a major global issue.
Many observers believe the committee will award the prizeÂ to someone who hasÂ worked toÂ manage theÂ crisis. Among those floated as contenders are the UN refugee organization UNHCR, a two-time Peace Prize winner, & MussieÂ Zerai, anÂ EritreanÂ priest who has beenÂ helping refugees who run into trouble crossingÂ the Mediterranean to Europe from North Africa.
But the German chancellor, who has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees into her country & vowed to take in more, has topped most lists.Â
Kristian Berg Harpviken, a NobelÂ expert & director of theÂ Peace Research Institute Oslo,Â has placed Merkel at No. 1Â on his annual predictions list.Â She's moreover atop the list at betting siteÂ Ladbrokes.com, whichÂ gives her 2-1 odds.Â
"In a time when many have dodged responsibility, Merkel hasÂ shown true leadershipÂ and risen above politics, taking aÂ humane approachÂ in a difficult situation,"Â Harpviken wrote.
A group of German MPs nominated the chancellor for the prize, according to media reports.
Denis MukwegeÂ Â
TheÂ Congolese gynecologist & rights activist has been favoured to win a Nobel Peace Prize for several years. Mukwege, an expert in reconstructive surgeries for rape victims, runs a free hospital inÂ Bukavu, where he's been credited with saving the lives ofÂ 40,000 women over 18 years,Â according to British newspaper The Guardian.
Gang rapes byÂ soldiersÂ and militias are extremely usual in the country.
"When I see some of the injuries on the women & children, I realize this type of violence has little to do with sex & much more with power through a sort of terrorism," he told The Guardian in May.Â
The website Nobeliana.com, run by three Nobel historians, placed Mukwege sixth on its list of 2015 predictions. Ladbrokes gives him 5-1 odds.
Harpviken put him at No. 5 on his list,Â predicting a shared win withÂ Jeanne Nacatche BanyereÂ andÂ Jeannette Kahindo Bindu, two Congolese women who provide support for sexual assault survivors through aÂ church network. Norwegian MPs have nominated all three, according to local media.Â
In a country dominated by state media with a highly controlled message,Â Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta isÂ known for its fearlessÂ independent journalism, whichÂ casts a critical eye on theÂ Kremlin.Â
Six of its journalists have been murdered since 2001,Â including prominent Kremlin critic & human rights activistÂ AnnaÂ Politkovskaya. Five men were convicted in her assassination last year,Â but it was never revealed who ordered the killing. The Russian government has denied any involvement.Â
The paper has moreover been subject to cyber attacks & police raids.
A Peace PrizeÂ forÂ NovayaÂ Gazeta would be theÂ first for any media outlet. What's more, according to Nobeliana, itÂ would "underline the independence of the Nobel Committee," as the decision would "provoke Russian authorities & possibly irritate some Norwegian politicians & parts of Norwegian business as well."
Harpviken says editor-in-chiefÂ Dmitry Muratov is a contender for "impressively holding on to the principles of journalism, despite severe costs." Ladsbrokes gives the paper 6-1 odds.
Reuters reported in May the paper had been nominated, yet it's not clear by whom.
Juan Manuel Santos, TimoleÃ³n JimÃ©nez Â â€‹â€‹
â€‹Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos & FARCÂ guerrilla leader TimoleÃ³nÂ JimÃ©nezÂ would be a controversial choice, as both are leaders in a bloody civil war that hasÂ created one of the world's highest internally displaced populations.Â FARC is considered a terrorist organization by Canada, the U.S. & the European Union.
But the twoÂ leaders have hammered out a peace deal that could end more thanÂ 50 years of armedÂ conflict in Colombia, & experts say the committee has a responsibility to promote peace as much as reward it.
"While both Santos & Timochenko are controversial figures, & each have their share of responsibility for past violence, the Colombian peace process should be a likely candidate for the Peace Prize, follows in a line of other Nobel Prizes through history, & would unquestionably be in Nobel's spirit," wrote Harpviken, who placed the duo second after Merkel.
Nobeliana placed the pair fifth, yet suggested they're more likely to win next year after the peace deal has been ratified.Â
It's not clear whether theyÂ have been nominated, yet experts say it's likely.
No pope has ever won a Nobel Peace Prize, yet observers say Francis stands out for his forÂ his focus on poverty, inequality & diplomacy.
During his whirlwind tour of the United States & Cuba, Francis repeatedly called on people to embrace immigrants & refugees & tend to those less fortunate.
Norwegian Liberal Party MPÂ Abid Raja nominated Francis.Â Ladbrokes gives him 6-1 odds & NobelianaÂ places him eight on its list, noting he has "made several speeches supporting the unprivileged & called for social justice."