Neuroscientist Facundo Manes has confirmed that he will run for office in the upcoming midterms, representing the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR).
The 52-year-old doctor and best-selling author said in an announcement video posted on social networks that he had decided "to accept the invitation from the UCR and participate in the next elections.”
Although he did not comment on the post he aspires to, Manes is expected to run as an opposition candidate for national deputy in Buenos Aires Province, the nation’s key electoral battleground.
"Know that despite the pain and suffering we are experiencing, we can all come out of this stronger. We have to turn resignation and disappointment into hope. We cannot allow fear to paralyse us," said the popular neurologist, who founded the renowned Instituto de Neurología Cognitiva (INECO).
“It is time to be present. For this reason, I have decided to accept the invitation that the Radical Civic Union has made to me and participate in the next elections," he said. “This is the fight of our lives. And we will be there until the end.”
Manes has long held political ambitions and most analysts consider this to be the first step in a potential presidential run in 2023. He is expected to tour media outlets in the coming weeks to strengthen his visibility, with his candidacy expected to be criticised by rivals over his lack of political experience.
Manes’ entry into politics will shake up horse-trading in the opposition Juntos por el Cambio ahead of the PASO primaries, which are due to take place on September 12. Candidates must be registered in a few weeks time and Juntos por el Cambio is yet to define who will run in the Buenos Aires Province, the nation’s most-populous region and a key national battleground. Lists must be finalised in three weeks time.
Most analysts expect Manes, who is well known to the public as a regular face on television shows and news broadcasts, to face a likely PASO face-off against Buenos Aires City Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli, a close ally of Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
The unknown is Jorge Macri, who is opposed to Santilli running in Buenos Aires Province. The Vicente López mayor – a cousin of former president Mauricio Macri – has threatened to head his own list against the City official or even back Manes.
The political newcomer’s entry into the race, after years of speculation over a move into politics, underlines the Radicals’ attempt to challenge PRO’s dominance of the opposition coalition.
The UCR backed the 2015-2019 Cambiemos administration but received few ministerial seats from Mauricio Macri in return and had little say in policy, despite providing much of the party structure and ground-game that took the PRO party leader into office. This time around, party officials are eager to hold more sway.
Within Radical circles, they feel that PRO should offer “reciprocity” for the past and accept that Manes is a high-profile candidate and therefore deserving of top-billing on a unified opposition coalition list.
“When they had more attractive candidates [in the past], we supported them. Now we have a new face, with a lot to contribute and who does not have to resign from any position in the City to present himself” as a candidate, an unnamed source from the party told Perfil in a report on Sunday, referencing Santilli’s need to resign as deputy mayor in order to run.
Manes is expected to campaign on a message of hope, optimism and structural reform, emphasising that the situation facing Argentina is urgent and that fresh leadership is needed.
“The future is not written, it depends on us," said the neurologist in his launch video. "We have a challenge ahead of us that we never imagined. We cannot face a crisis of this magnitude with the same policies as always."
Celebrating the news (and the introduction of a box office name onto his party’s ticket), Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales hailed the news and posted a photo on social networks showing a 14-year-old Manes at a closing ceremony for Raúl Alfonsín's 1983 presidential campaign in Rosario.
GEN party leader Margarita Stolbizer was also among those who expressed support, describing the announcement as “great news.” The veteran former lawmaker said she would “accompany Manes in campaigning, whether or not I am a candidate, as I have always done,"