MANSOURA, Egypt — Mortada Mansour, the man accused of directing the notorious Battle of the Camel during the Tahrir Square protests in February, came to a courtroom in this provincial city to defend the right of former regime stalwarts to run in the coming parliamentary elections.
“If I had participated in the Battle of the Camel, people would be throwing rocks at me, not hailing me the way they are,” said Mansour, perhaps Egypt’s most flamboyant lawyer, wheeling his black Cadillac Escalade through narrow streets with one hand while waving the other at well-wishers.
He denies having set loose camels with riders who beat protesters in Tahrir Square, but believes strongly that supporters of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, should compete for a role in the country’s future. “If you want a democracy, just let the people be, and they will choose who they want,” he said.
Two weeks before Egypt’s first parliamentary vote since a popular uprising toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11, much of the electorate seems obsessed with the idea that former Mubarak loyalists will somehow steal the government back via the ballot box.
Scores of lawsuits have been filed to block former members of the once-dominant National Democratic Party, or NDP, from running. A website called “Imsik Feloul” or “To Catch a Remnant,” tries to ferret them out. Seemingly every political rally or conference starts with questions from the public about who might be a remnant — the epithet of choice — and how to prevent their resurgence.
In Cairo on Monday, Egypt’s High Administrative Court froze a ruling from the lower court in Mansoura that had barred all former regime candidates from running in the surrounding province, meaning that for now they can run.
“God is great!” cried several former NDP members in the gallery, waving aloft their membership cards from the party, which was legally dissolved in April.
Given the patchwork of cases and decisions from around the country, the judges in Cairo said they would issue a blanket ruling shortly, but given Monday’s judgment, they were expected to allow former party members to run.
“Feloul,” coming from the Arabic word for the scattered remnants of a defeated army, is flung at anybody who expresses sympathy for the Mubarak regime. Voters hunt for them under practically every campaign banner, not to mention every rock.
“The Egyptian street does not want them,” said Sherif Diab, 26, a thin, intense, unemployed lyricist who started the website, which is fashioned as the Ghostbusters of the regime remnant world.