Ahead of the Nobel prize season beginning on Monday, Germany’s influential Bild newspaper said Merkel, 61, had “a good chance”, partly over her open-door policy on refugees fleeing war and persecution.
“Reasons: her actions in the Ukraine crisis and the refugee policies,” the German daily said.
The first Nobel to be announced will be the medicine prize on Monday, when the jury in Stockholm reveals the winner or winners around 11:30 am (0930 GMT).
But most of the build-up traditionally swirls around who will take home the literature and peace prizes.
A total of 276 nominations have been submitted for this year’s peace prize — two short of the record 278 last year.
The Norwegian Nobel Institute never discloses the list, leaving amateurs and experts to resort to a guessing game ahead of the October 9 announcement.
Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), is one of a few experts who has the audacity to make a bet. And according to him “Angela Merkel will get the Peace Prize,” he told reporters in Oslo on Thursday.
In his annual shortlist of possible winners, she is followed by the Colombian government and FARC rebels for their peace process, and Putin-critical Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta for its perseverance in independent reporting.
“Angela Merkel is the one who really took moral leadership and who turned the debate on refugee issues in a European context entirely around,” Harpviken said.
Despite opposition from other EU leaders and even a rebellion among her domestic allies, “she stood her ground”, said this expert, who however has yet to accurately predict a peace prize winner.
Merkel has held fast to the mantra “we will manage this” in the face of an expected up to one million new arrivals in Germany this year, although in mid-September, Berlin decided to temporarily reintroduce passport checks on its borders, while still allowing migrants into the country.
The refugee crisis also topped the list at Nobeliana.com, a website run by leading Norwegian Nobel historians.
Its top prediction was a shared prize to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) — which has already won the Peace Prize twice, in 1954 and 1981 — and Eritrean Catholic priest Mussie Zerai, who has helped thousands of refugees cross the Mediterranean.
Nobeliana also had Novaya Gazeta in second spot.
“Freedom of expression is under pressure in Russia and a media (organisation) has never won the Peace Prize,” Nobeliana wrote.
Iran, Congo, Japan
Other names and organisations circulating in the run-up to the announcement include Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his US counterpart John Kerry for the Iran nuclear deal, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Arms (ICAN), Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege who has treated thousands of women brutalised by rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and Japan’s pacifist Article 9 Association.
Another recurring name was Pope Francis, to whom the online betting site Unibet gave the best odds at 9/2, followed by Mussie Zerai at 5/1 and Novaya Gazeta at 6/1.
The 2014 prize went to Pakistani girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and another advocate of child rights, India’s Kailash Satyarthi.
The other prize that generates much speculation is the literature prize, with the names of Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and US novelist Joyce Carol Oates swirling most frequently in Stockholm’s literary circles.
Others include South Korean poet Ko Un, Syrian poet Adonis, Japanese best-selling novelist Haruki Murakami, Albanian writer Ismail Kadare, and Hungarian author Peter Nadas.
Ursula Le Guin, a US science fiction writer, has also appeared on betting sites and been suggested as a possible laureate by some critics. She would be the first in her genre to win the prestigious award.
Americans have not fared well lately with the Swedish Academy: Toni Morrison was the last US writer to win, in 1993. “The Academy has demonstrated an aversion to American literature … I wouldn’t protest if (Philip) Roth or Oates were to win,” said Bjorn Wiman, culture editor at Sweden’s paper of reference Dagens Nyheter.
Last year, the honour went to France’s Patrick Modiano.
After the medicine prize kicks off the Nobel season, the physics prize on Tuesday and the chemistry prize on Wednesday will follow.
Unlike the other awards, the date for the literature prize announcement is revealed only a few days in advance. It traditionally falls on a Thursday and could therefore be on October 8.
The economics prize will wrap up the season on October 12.
This year’s Nobel laureates will receive eight million Swedish kronor (around $950,000 or 855,000 euros) per award, to be shared if there are several winners in one discipline.