Four in ten municipal representatives in Wallonia plan to resign due to high stress, a feeling that nothing is changing, or the amount of responsibility being too much to bear, according to a new survey conducted by Le Soir.
Of the 483 mayors, aldermen, and CPAS presidents who responded to the newspaper’s survey, 61% said that they planned to run again. However, 22% stated that they will end their mandate with the elections next year, while 17% indicated they plan to resign from politics before then.
When asked about their reasons for not seeking re-election, local officials cited a poor balance between work and private life, the poor view of politicians in the public eye, or a heavy workload. 33% of mayors say that the criminal and civil liability of their role is a heavy burden to bear.
Local officials are generally satisfied with their pay, with just 16% stating that it was too low.
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The problem is not exclusive to Wallonia. In 2018-2022, 900 Flemish councillors quit their jobs, some just months after being elected. In Flanders, local officials complained of an inability to make a real change and general burn-out behind their reason to resign.
Some local officials have described the high dropout rates as “a great danger” for local democracy, which is the first line of governance for most citizens. According to the Union of Towns and Municipalities, 75% of respondents say that holding a local mandate is no longer useful in securing further employment.
With stretched budgets and limited resources, many officials complain that the stress of the job negatively affects their mental health: 67% of respondents said that their state of mind deteriorated over the past four years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. The role of social media also makes it much easier for local officials to face abuse.