Who, in your opinion, has been the person or people to have made the most impact on 2016? Not necessarily your favourite, but the most influential.
We at Euronews are asking you, our viewers, readers, followers and friends, to debate who should be our Person of the Year 2016. Our newsroom has shortlisted three people and one duo for you to argue for and against. Here is that shortlist and you can make your case in the Facebook posts below each candidate.
Once we’ve read all the contributions across the 13 Euronews languages, we’ll see whose case you believe is the most convincing and announce Euronews’ Person of the Year on December 16.
Manuel Santos & Timochenko
In October, Colombian President Manuel Santos’ name was announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee as the recipient of its famous peace prize. Having successfully negotiated to end the bloodshed that was the Colombian civil war between the government and the Guerillas, Santos was for many people a worthy laureate.
He was elected president in 2010 and started talks with FARC about two years later. They lasted four years and their completion, it was hoped, would give the Latin American country the chance for a fresh start, with reconciliation being step number one. It was partly thanks to Santos’ concessions; he reassured FARC that no member of the organization would be extradited. This led to plenty of criticism, claims that Santos would accept peace at any cost, but nonetheless it was what urged the Havana based talks to move forward and reach a conclusion.
Contrary to what the Nobel Peace Prize Committee decided, many people believed FARC leader Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko should also have shared the prize. Santos initiated the negotiations, but it certainly takes two to tango; Timochenko is said to have approached those crucial talks with an open mind and tried to reassure sceptics that “we are going into politics without weapons (…) we are going to comply”. Without a doubt, 2016 has witnessed one of the most important and long awaited peace deals, something well worth remembering from the year.
From the moment this Argentinian cardinal was elected, there seemed to be something different about him. He made sure we all took note of him with his first act: he chose his papal name after Saint Francis of Assisi, protector of the poor. During his mandate, he has endeavoured to teach love the way Jesus did. Unconditional, pure love. Love that doesn’t notice skin colour, health or even religious beliefs.
Since 2015, during an unprecedented migrant crisis and political turmoil which has seen racist, xenophobic and hateful voices not only being raised but also in some cases winning elections, the Pontifix opted for the higher path, that of preaching and spreading love. When migrants and refugees were flooding the Greek island Lesbos, he chose to visit and bless the refugees regardless of their Muslim faith. He even took a number of them in his papal plane and – being the Head of the Vatican State – granted some of them asylum and a chance for a better life in the Promised Land that Europe represented for them.
As a side note, Pope Francis has visited Greece only once, but not Athens; he went to the centre of the problem, Lesbos. And he met the Greek Prime Minister there, on the ground. Few leaders would set that kind of example. And few Popes would enjoy such a popularity rate among Orthodox Christian followers.
His name could be enough to name him Person of the Year. Why? “Because he’s Putin, end of discussion”. He is considered one of the most, if not the most, powerful politician on the planet right now. Ruler of Russia since the start of the millenium, he is credited with bringing what used to be a glorious empire out of the post-Cold War doldrums, from collapse and near-bankruptcy to the status of world superpower once again.
Although not on the financial playing field – at least yet; the Russian economy remains mainly an oligarchic one, where the super-wealthy few control almost everything and the super-poor many struggle to make ends meet. Also, Moscow has yet to fulfil any plans of diversification, as the country cannot forever exploit oil and natural gas pockets to make money. That being said, Putin has made it clear this year, but also the year before, that he is a man better to be friends with than enemies.
Ask Bassar al-Assad, Syria’s president, who would have most likely been toppled had it not been for his loyal ally. Even Putin may recognise that Syria’s future is not Assad, but if removing Assad means having a US-friendly democratically elected government at Russia’s southern border, then Assad it must be. Russian fighters and Russian know-how are now the most credible weapons at the disposal of the Damascus regime as it combats both the anti-regime rebels and the Islamic militia. Plus, sitting at the top table in Syria allows you to invite the West there too. At the end of the day, diplomacy is there to create discussion, and being a pivotal part of that allows you to lead it in the direction you wish it to follow. Volatile Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is among the best at this game, which is why 2016 has been his year and why next year will be also.
Let’s rewind 12 months and ask ourselves whether we genuinely thought Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States. Back then, few did. For a start he had a scrum of Republican favourites to get past in the party primaries. Governors, Senators, Congressmen. Powerful people used to winning elections. But he did it. The gloves came off and things got dirty. It got personal. He picked them off one by one.
That hurdle cleared, he turned his attention to the Democratic Party candidate. Hillary Clinton had the experience. She had the political donors, the election war-chest and the grass roots organisation on her side. She had one sitting and one former President fighting her corner. She had the mainstream media, Oscar-winners, Grammy-winners all backing her to be the USA’s first female president.
Trump on the other hand had Republicans rushing to abandon him as tapes emerged of him boasting about sexually assaulting women. Opponents accused him of avoiding taxes. Fact-checkers proved he avoided the truth. Trump managed to offend war veterans, women, people with disabilities, ecologists, members of his own supposed party, most people with college degrees, Latino voters, African American voters and the entire population of neighbouring Mexico.
There was no way Americans were going to elect Donald Trump to (arguably) the most powerful office on Earth, was there?
And yet, they did. Donald Trump beat all the odds. Donald Trump won because his strategy worked: forget the facts, just seize the spotlight, keep people talking about you and attack your opponent’s weak spot, in Clinton’s case her perceived dishonesty. Donald Trump won because more people who are fed up with the Washington elite voted than people fed up with Donald Trump did. Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America. And you’d better get used to it.