“You are right to introduce yourself!” says a pensioner in a cap to the smiling sixty-year-old who has just handed him a leaflet, before whispering to his neighbor: “Do you know who it is? He’s the former mayor of Montpellier! » Market day in front of the town hall of Castelnau-le-Lez, a dormitory town on the outskirts of Montpellier. Philippe Saurel, 64, with an “Ultrabrite” smile, jacket and shirt over jeans, strides the aisles of the market, visibly happy, waving at everything, using familiar terms, blowing kisses, asking for news.

“We miss you! I was just talking about it with friends, ”assures Michèle, who tells her all the bad things she thinks of her successor as mayor of Montpellier. “And your knee, is it 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 metropolitan area of ​​Montpellier to everyone’s surprise in 2014, at the head of a various left and “citizen” list. The man managed, at the head of his communities, a cumulative budget of 1.5 billion euros, launched major projects, transformed the agglomeration into a metropolis. Before his fall in 2020, dryly beaten in a triangular by the socialist Michaël Delafosse.

Saurel has just had two difficult years: two leg operations, one of which was heavy on the right knee. His failure in the municipal elections. And the death of his mother. “After losing the elections, I registered with 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 advice is impossible for working people like me!” Saurel retorts. And then, he says, “Homo politicus came to the surface. »

The outgoing LREM MP for the 3rd constituency of Hérault, Coralie Dubost, had barely withdrawn at the beginning of May when the former mayor gave an interview to Midi libre to declare himself a candidate for the constituency, where he was born.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 54-year-old oncogeriatrist, Laurence Cristol, to the chagrin of the Walkers of the constituency…

What does it matter for Saurel: he returns to the electoral battle 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 assistant, Josy Schwartz, bombarded alternate. “We receive a lot of donations and messages of encouragement,” marvels Jaoul. “And if you are elected, where will you sit?” asks a passerby. “If I attach myself to a group, it will not be Macron’s, rather an independent group,” he replies.

Will he be elected? “Notoriety is not enough,” recognizes the homo politicus. Who aims, at least, for the score of 5%, which would allow him to be reimbursed for his campaign costs. 5%: his score in the regional elections, in 2015, when he launched his citizen lists to attack all of Occitania. “It’s better than Anne Hidalgo!” »