For an outsider to the Albanian election campaign the many metaphors, insults, and obscure cultural and culinary references are often difficult to follow. The increasingly baroque language that is used by party leaders to mask their nonsensical “programs” and lack of concrete ideological content has led to a blooming and arcane lexicon, in which figural language tumbles over itself.
A fitting example of such metaphorical density would be a recent statement of LSI leader Petrit Vasili:
Today is the great day that with our plan we banish the plan of the baking tray [tepsi] and the steering wheel [timon] to erect the Republic of the Youth and not the New Republic [Republika e Re]
Let me try to explain a few of the key terms below, in alphabetical order:
Literal meaning: Ebola. Term introduced by President-Elect and former LSI leader Ilir Meta. He stated that he no longer wants Albania to be rrotë më rrotë (wheel to wheel, see timon) with Sierra Leone, comparing the Rilindja with Albania’s ebola. This is rather recent metaphor, and we will have to see whether more medical vocabulary will infect the politicians’ speeches.
Literal meaning: Eri boy. Lali means “guy,” “boy,” “bloke,” in local Tirana dialect, Eri is short for Erion. Denigrating nickname of Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj, used by himself and Prime Minister in Rama in public. It is supposed to emphasize his down-to-earth, folksy character, but together with the many pictures Veliaj likes to take with young children, it become a bit creepy. Veliaj is also called Fiku, a reference to his self-proclaimed “humble origin story” as fig seller on the streets of Tirana.
Literal meaning: hostage. Prime Minister Rama has claimed that for 4 years he and his government have been held peng by the të voglat. His desire no longer to be held peng is similar to his desire to be the only driver at the timon.
Republika e Re
Literal meaning: The New Republic. Coined by Lulzim Basha in the final weeks of his opposition protest in front of the Prime Ministry, after writer Fatos Lubonja argued for a Republika e Dytë (Second Republic). Basha officially declared the Republika e Re against Rama during a rally on May 14, 4 days before his agreement with Rama. Ever since, it has been very unclear what Republika e Re actually entails, but it certainly means Basha at the timon.
Literal meaning: Renaissance. Rilindja was the PS election slogan from the 2013 elections. It is still used as a metonym for the PS, often sarcastically. It also influenced Basha’s Republika e Re, and the Vasili’s Republika e të rinjve (Republic of the Youth), all of which contain the morpheme ri/re “new.”
Literal meaning: Ltd. Shpk is an abbreviation placed behind Albanian companies with limited liability. The term is used by both Prime Minister Rama and Lulzim Basha to refer to the LSI of former party leader and current President-Elect Ilir Meta. Shpk alludes to the clientelist way the LSI is allegedly organized, like a family business that finds jobs for its members and voters inside the public administration.
Literal meaning: baking tray. A tepsi is a metal tray in which byrek is served. One tepsi contains several portions of byrek. The term was first coined by Prime Minister Edi Rama, but has already been taken over by Lulzim Basha. The tepsi is a metaphor for the state apparatus, to which, fresh out of the oven of the elections, all parties rush to get a part: a ministry, a directorate, or other state institution.
Prime Minister Rama claims that të voglat only care for the tepsi (i.e. nepotism and clientelism) and not for the actual running of the state. He claims that the entire tepsi should go to the PS so that he can bring Albania forward.
The term has given rise to a host of related metaphors, such as tezgë, and, for example a recent statement of Ilir Meta that “Democrats don’t want a leader with only a stomach.” Other references to appetite, eating, hunger, and so on abound in the current electoral discourse.
Literal meaning: the small ones. Another invention of Prime Minister Rama, used to refer to the “small parties,” which include his current coalition partners LSI (see also shpk), PDIU (see also tezgë), the new parties LIBRA and NISMA, as well as other marginal parties such as the PSD and PR. Të voglat are only interested in divving up the tepsi.
Literal meaning: the wooden counter on which bread or the tepsi with byrek is presented, or the wooden constructions on which market vendors place their wares. Opposition leader Lulzim Basha used tezgë to refer to the PDIU, expanding Rama’s metaphor of the tepsi. The PDIU would thus be a party on top of which the byrek of the state is served, implying that it would serve either left or right as long it could serve power. In 2013 the PDIU campaigned with PD, but switched to the PS–LSI government in 2015.
Literal meaning: steering wheel. Anther metaphor invented by Prime Minister Rama, who asks his voters insistently to give the PS the timon of the government. Extending the metaphor, a car with two drivers at the timon (i.e., a coalition) is bound to crash. The metaphor has been picked up by other politicians, putting in doubt Rama’s driving capabilities. It has also produced extended metaphors of roads, drivers, and driving styles, which have infused the campaign language.