Mum’s The Word

A man for all times: Dimitrij Rupel in 1990 (left) and 2004 (right)

The initial shock of PM Borut Pahor keeping Dimitrij Rupel as a senior government official is over and we can take a look at it once more.The consesus seems to be that Pahor flipped. Gone bananas. Down the toliet. Whacko. Went David Blane. Lost it. Went nuts. Tripped the light fantastic. Slammed his head with a golden brick with a lemon-peel wrapped around it. You name it.

The backlash was instant. All over the newspapers letters to the editor are full of people spitting venom at Pahor, people threatning to quit the party, lamenting their vote for Social Democrats, with emotions ranging from disbelief to sheer anger.So the question on everyone’s mind is: Why? Why flush down entire (and I mean entire) political capital Pahor has so painstainkingly accumulated over the years. Why going from a hero to a zero in an instant, when he lives for and is addicted to ratings. It just doesn’t make sense.

Or does it.If one looks around, one will see that there is little to no reaction to Pahor’s naming Rupel for special envoy for foreign relations. Nobody is even seriously asking, what the fuck a special enovoy for foreign relations is. Does he handle the Middle East crisis? Hope not. We’d have World War III on our hands within a fortnight. Does he negotiate with Croatia? If so, wouldn’t it be better if he were called Special envoy for Croatia? Besides, Rupel has been negotiating witht Croatia for his entire carreer and no good came out of it. Does he do special ops? OK, I’m pushing it… Point being that nothing is known about his job description. And yet, noone is saying a thing about, although eighty percent (according to some polls) of people are going apeshit. PM Pahor only says that he realises that he’s not very popular right now. Gregor Golobič of Zares is trying to play it down as much as he can, although I can totaly imagine him fuming with rage upon hearing the news, especially since his fellow party member Ivo Vajgl (my favourite for the post of FM) took Rupel apart piece by piece during the election campaign (’twas a sight to remember). Katarina Kresal of LDS, the most rabid of the four coalition members is only saying that Pahor can pick whomever he sees fit. Karl Erjavec of DeSUS is maintaing radio silence.

President Danilo Türk will not comment on it.

Former PM Janez Janša has not spoken in the matter (apparently he’s enjoying a vacation) and his party is awaiting further instructions. Even Dimitrij Rupel is keeping awfully quiet. And remember, he used to be all over the news, happily giving statements and arguing with reporters if need be, even telling them flat out a couple of years ago that “it is no use picking fights with the ruling coalition”. So what is it that bought Dimitrij Rupel yet another stint in the government?

Some say Pahor is simply infatuated with Rupel. Indeed Pahor’s praise of Rupel seems to support this theory. Upon naming him, the PM extolled Rupel’s virtues, experience and connections. The whole thing was starting to resemble a Miss Universe contest. Pahor conveniently forgot that for all his years in diplomacy Rupel is still considered a walking natural disaster and that his black book of contacts probably does not include Hillary’s private cell number, making it only partially useless. Pahor also forgot that Rupel played the role of Judas a couple of times before and that he always collected his thirty pieces of silver. That Rupel publicly questioned and went against decisions by every single President this country had. And that he used to tell media what to report and how to report it. And?

Nothing. Not a single beep. From anyone.

So, let’s speculate: If Pahor were trully simply infatuated with Rupel, the two would have hugged and cuddled in public to the point of being asked to get a room. Rupel would jump up and down in front of cameras like an orangutan and bark at microfons near and far, while Pahor would try to persuade people that this time Rupel really is a new man. Given Pahor’s performance while assembling his ministers and coalition as a whole, this option seems less and less likely. Why would somene be so good in assembling his government and then fuck up in picking his advisers?

In seeminlgy unrelated news, however, the plot thickens in the Patria affair. It turned out that the initial eight APCs delivered are rusty, leaking, with paint falling off and have a not-so-new and completely inadquate complement of armament. Former CEO of Patria Jorma Wiitakorpi was re-arrested and again released, pending further investigation, which is due to finish in some three months, when the trial is finally scheduled to begin. The authors of the incrimminating programme on Finnish television maintain that they have evidence that proves that former PM Janez Janša was indeed bribed.

Now, as noted earlier, Janša is awfully quiet these days. Not only did he not comment on Rupel’s switcheroo, but did not say a word ever since Pahor took over as PM – with the sole exception of Janša’s speech in the parliament on the day the new government was sworn in. But apart from that – nothing. Niente. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

The other competing theory is, that Pahor is overdoing it with his trademark bipartisan approach. Even when he was President of the parliament (2000 – 2004) he was constantly berated by members of his own SD that he is neglecting party interests and is not pushing coalition agenda enough. Pahor usually replied that his responsibilities as President of the Parliament are chiefly to the voters and not to the party he run. This time around he took a similar approach, saying that he was elected to govern in an efficient and responsible, but not neceasrily always popular manner. Which a) is in flat contradiction with his carefully styled and non-polarising public image and b) does not explain why he chose Rupel over some other promiment members of Janša’s government. He could have chosen, say, Gregor Virant, former minister of Public Affairs who served as a state secretary on ministry of internal affairs as late as the last LDS-run government, headed by PM Tone Rop.

So, why Rupel, who is a very polarising figure and upon closer inspection does not fit Pahor’s pattern of bipartisan politics, does little to bring new quality to Pahor’s team (both “new” and “quality” being the operative words here) and is making Pahor about as popular as a fetid dingo’s kidney.

One of the reasons that comes to mind is of course the possibility that Rupel was privy to some sensitive information. Is he blackmailing Pahor? What with? Red bull? Possible extra-marital affairs? Pahor was rather frank on both counts when he blamed his mid-campaign kidney inflamation on Red Bull overdose and (on another occasion) said that he’s running for PM and not for Pope. Furthermore, why would only Rupel be in posession of such information and not other members of Janša’s government?

As a foreign minister Rupel had access to intelligence information, together with the chief of Slovenian Intelligence Agency (SOVA), the PM, defence minister and interior minister. Interestingly enough, the President of the Republic is not a member of National Security Council by default (Rop’s government took the decision in 2002 and to my knowledge it hasn’t been changed). Spy chief aside, Rupel is the only one of the above who is not directly linked to the Patria affair.

So, could it be that Rupel played the role of Judas once again only that this time around he sold Janez Janša to Borut Pahor, collecting his 30 pieces of silver in the form of a desk job charged with ore prospecting and wasting time. Under this scenario, Rupel handed over information about Janša’s involvement in the Patria affair. Either that or on Slovene-Croat relationship, where – let us remind ourselves – Janša was accused of orchestrating border incidents prior to 2004 parliamentary elections.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

23 thoughts on “Mum’s The Word”

  1. I think it’s just a bunch of good ole’ boys rubbing each others’ back. Rupel was about to be seriously done without a job lined up and Pahor gave everyone a signal – Slovenian politicians never have to fear for a position. They might put on a show of fighting on TV for the crowd, but in reality their goals and methods to reach them are really not too different. A bizarre mixture of socialism and nationalism. We all know where that combination led at the tail end of the last truly big world financial/economic crisis.

    If what you say is true, however, I would like to see it played out. Let’s see Jansa crash and burn! Patria as well as the orchestration of border incidents in 2004 are serious accusations that have never been proven. If tey can prove it JJ’s career is over for good, so c’mon! Let’s see some blood on the floor!

  2. I think it’s just a bunch of good ole’ boys rubbing each others’ back

    Could be, could very well be… It is certainly a more conventional as well as convenient explanation.

    And as you correctly note, neither Janša’s involvment in Patri affair not his border-incident rigging have been proven…


  3. The explanation Pahor gave why Rupel is so valuable was so ridiculous!
    1. Rupel knows something about Pahor and blackmails him
    2. Rupel sold information about some Pahor’s enemy and now Pahor has something to blackmail somebody other, the price was the position
    3. Rupel sold information about some Pahor’s friend and now Pahor has the guaranty, that it will not become public except Pahor doesn’t wont it, the price was the position
    Pahor has now under his wing: Rop, Rupel … people who could not function together in LDS!
    Facebook skupina: “Skupaj proti Dimitriju Ruplu” ( šteje ta hip že preko 6.300 članov.

  4. Jeebus, I thought at least you guys on the left were not conspiracy freaks of the “Kucan did it” kind.

    Occam’s razor. That is all.

  5. Now there’s the follow up piece I’ve been waiting for. All of the possible scenarios I had running through my mind are covered here. I hope the journos keep shaking the tree because I’d love to see what falls out in the end…

  6. Playing the devil’s advocate role here.
    @crni: your argument doesn’t stand as Rupel could have retired and done his thing from a comfy fotelj and if you were right, other now jobless opposition politicians would have received similar support. If you disagree, you by default agree that Rupel is a special case and then the question remains Why.

    @Mr. P: Correction, the Finnish TV never specifically said Jansa was bribed. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    The blackmail scenario is out of question AFAIAC. If Rupel were in position to blackmail, I imagine he would not have asked to serve as his blackmailee’s advisor. A rather masochist way of enjoying the fruits of one’s illegal act, nespa?

    Back to my devillish role. Horns set firmly in place. Alternative scenario: Pahor decided he didn’ want to spend his days (not)reacting to open letters, articles, interviews and blog entries produced by a resentful, hyperactive and basically idle Rupel.

    Offering him a badly paid job in his cabinet with no real powers but still some spotlight works better. Rupel does possess useful knowledge. Keeping your friends close and enemies closer comes to mind.

    As far as Pahor blowing his entire political capital, well, he just immensely increased his chances of success by lowering expectation right down to the bottom. If Rupel stays quiet, focus will shift to real issues of today very quickly and Pahor will love climbing back up in terms of popularity more than he would trying to stay on top.

  7. In my eyes this DR.filomena is a very intelligent girl. I think Pahor is not such a firm figure as he would like to appear. He needs all the scrupulous people he can gather around him to feel stronger.

  8. Not that I can claim to know a bean about the intricacies of Slovenian politics, but the idea of bringing a potentially irritating critic inside your own “big tent” is a persuasive idea and likely a clever one. If by doing so you lower people’s expectations of what can be achieved, that is no bad thing either and could be perceived as a bonus.

    @Dr. Fil: A career a politics beckons…

  9. ahor decided he didn’ want to spend his days (not)reacting to open letters, articles, interviews and blog entries produced by a resentful, hyperactive and basically idle Rupel.

    Unlikely. Rupel outside a government is a pest. Rupel within the government is a liablity. Suppose Rupel has a change of heart once again (probably for something like 357th time). Pahor is now pesonally responsible for Rupel and is will have to spend more time and enery keeping him on a leash then he would if he’d put Rupel where he belongs.

    As far as icreasing success by lowering expectiations: If anything Pahor was underestimated to start with. Just remember how people used to say that it was actually Gregor Golobič who will run the government. Well, as we all can see, this is definitely not the case.

  10. Of all the senior politicians who now find themselves without a job, Rupel was the one who was guaranteed not to go away. Pahor’s thinking seems to be: have him in a job in which I set the agenda, and can use him as little as I like; better that than having him undermining the government through the press. Rupel has a finely developed ‘victim complex’ which he will be less able to indulge in in the non-job he’s just been handed.

    The blackmail theory is a non-starter, I’m afraid 🙁

  11. Well the blackmail theory (redbull/affair) was never a serious contender. I just included it to cover all the aspects.

    I think the main question here is, who needed who more. I think it was Rupel who needed Pahor to get him a reasonably well piad job and that Pahor could easily do without Rupel’s “connections”.

    And let us not forget that being a member of the government does not stop Rupel from underminig it. Indeed he did it as an ambassador to the US (when he toppled and replaced Boris Frlec) as well as foregin minister in 2004 when he went against his PM Tone Rop and was ultimately expelled from the government. Sadly, it was much too late and Rupel got to keep the position under PM Janša.

  12. Fair enough. But, correct me if I’m wrong, while this is a ‘government’ position, it’s not a cabinet one. Envoys tend to get sent places, or told to draw up reports. He’ll be busy, which is the point, but crisis and negotiation will require the foreign minister.

    Humiliation surely beckons.

  13. @Venera:Thanks. Your take on the matter at hand is legitimate, but does not match mine.

    @Adriaan: Self-depreciating as ever 😉 I do appreciate your point, however, with a slight hint of US hillaryizm of late. dr fil will get involved with politics when adriaan can vote in Slovenia, deal?

    @Mr.P: You keep saying Rupel is in the government. Actually and very importantly, he is not. He is an advisor to Pahor and that’s it. As far as we know he’ll be locked in some beautifully decorated room. Producing unread docs all days long with an occasional social occasion break.

    On your second point: How many and who were voicing that opinion? A loud minority. My grandmothers were still in love with him, bless their hearts.

    @glassofwater: word!

    @Mr.P again: Again, Rupel did not need a job. And unless he sensed a ship sinking, he was as loyal as can be.

  14. “Nobody is even seriously asking, what the fuck a special enovoy for foreign relations is.”

    Not true. I’ve been asking that question on my blog as soon as I heard the news of Rupel’s appointment. 😉

    It seems strange that everybody’s opposing this move because of Rupel’s persona and not because it’s unclear what this newly constructed position actually means for our foreign relations. Who will lead the show, the minister of foreign affairs or Rupel as PM’s special emissary? And how will this relate to president Türk’s foreign activites?

  15. I think that simplifies matters a little too much. It doesn’t have to be either. Reward assumes some kind of conspiracy, penal assumes that Pahor would go to the trouble of inviting into government someone he didn’t even have to speak to ever again, in order to punish them. It would be a beautifully vindictive thing to do, but I don’t think Pahor’s capable of that.

    I think it was a split-second decision, based on a vague notion of the size of Rupel’s address book and the need to have a major irritant where he could see him, that he wishes he could take back 😀

  16. @Pris @ Mr. P: Actually I think we’ve all been wondering that very thing. Sequence of questions:
    1/ WTF?!
    2/ What is he going to do?

    Speculations on effectively having three ‘foreign ministers’ have been tossed around in the media for quite a while.

    The DA says there is just one Minister of Foreign Affairs, then there is the President whose role and tasks are quite well defined and the Prime Minister whose status is also well-determined. In this case, the PM will be advised, if he so chooses, by the former Minister whose position will sound much more glamorous and powerful than it will be in reality.

    Mr. P, firstly, I truly and honestly do not believe that Rupel *needs* a job. Furthermore, I think (or hope) that you’re overestimating Rupel’s power to undermine the government to which he actually even doesn’t really belong in his foggy new position. I am furthermore sure that Pahor can fire him on the spot the same way he hired him if/when he so chooses. And more importantly, Rupel knows that.

    @rehydrated: I second your thoughts with a slight dissent from the very last bit.

  17. @dr.filomena: I don’t think my opinion is in clash with anyone else’s here. I was trying to pinpoint the feature of Pahor’s character which made him take such a decision. I think it is his undetermined, trying to please as many as possible, insecure…nature. It will be intersting to see how he administers power.

  18. @venera: point taken

    @all: after today’s statements by Pahor I take my horns back and gently descend from the devil’s advocate soapbox.

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