” Vyou are quite right to introduce yourself! ” says a pensioner in a cap to the smiling six-year-old who has just handed him a leaflet, before whispering to his neighbor: “Do you know who this is? This is the former mayor of Montpellier! “Market day in front of the town hall of Castelnau-le-Lez, a dormitory town on the edge of Montpellier. Philippe Saurel, 64 years old, smiling “Ultrabrite”, jacket and shirt over jeans, strides the aisles of the market, visibly happy, greeting at all times, tutoring, snapping kisses, asking for news.

“We regret you! I was just talking about it with friends,” Michèle assures him, who tells him all the evil she thinks of her successor as mayor of Montpellier. “And your knee, is it getting better? “passers-by regularly inquire. No one here has forgotten the non-party candidate, who came from the PS, who took the city and then the agglomeration of Montpellier by surprise in 2014, at the head of a left-wing and “citizen” list. The man managed, at the head of his communities, a cumulative budget of 1.5 billion euros, launched major construction projects, transformed the agglomeration into a metropolis. Before his fall in 2020, dryly beaten in a triangular by the socialist Michaël Delafosse.

Homo politicus

Saurel has just lived two difficult years: two leg operations, one of which, heavy, in the right knee. His failure in the municipal elections. And the death of his mother. “After losing the elections, I signed up for Pôle emploi,” says the dental surgeon, who now works in a mutual clinic in Montpellier. His opponents blame him for his absence on the benches of the municipal opposition. “Daytime counseling is impossible for people, like me, who work! “retorts Saurel. And then, he says: “Homo politicus has risen to the surface. »

TO READ ALSOIn Montpellier, three left-wing candidates for a constituency

Barely the outgoing LREM deputy of the 3e constituency of the Hérault, Coralie Dubost, had she declared forfeit, at the beginning of May, that the former mayor granted an interview to Free lunch to declare himself a candidate in the constituency, where he was born, recalling that he had “supported Emmanuel Macron”, in 2017 as in 2022. While claiming his freedom and independence. The President of the Republic was not sensitive to this call from the foot: the presidential party finally replaced Dubost with a local elected LR and oncogeriatrician of 54 years, Laurence Cristol, much to the chagrin of the Walkers of the constituency…

Donations and messages of encouragement

What does it matter for Saurel: he goes back to the electoral fight without a label with visible happiness, accompanied by a handful of faithful, including the mayor of the commune of Saint-Brès, Laurent Jaoul, and his first deputy, Josy Schwartz, bombarded substitute. “We get a lot of donations and messages of encouragement,” Jaoul marvels. “And if you are elected, where will you sit? “asks a passer-by. “If I join a group, it will not be Macron’s, rather an independent group,” he replies.

His campaign document recalls his support for Macron and proclaims “Together for the territory”, at the risk of confusion with the candidate invested by the presidential party. He also lists, on a full page, the achievements of the former president of the Metropolis of Montpellier Philippe Saurel on the constituency: the construction of the music conservatory in Montpellier, that of a swimming pool in Saint-Brès, the “support for the Camargue race” … The candidate also wants to “fight against medical deserts” and “reform institutions”.

Will he be elected? “Notoriety is not enough,” acknowledges homo politicus. Which aims, at a minimum, the score of 5%, which would allow him to be reimbursed for his campaign expenses. 5%: his score in the regional elections, in 2015, when he launched his citizen lists to assault the whole of Occitania. “It’s better than Anne Hidalgo! »