Former Rotterdam mayor Bram Peper dies at 82

Bram Peper (right) at his inauguration in Rotterdam in 1982. Photo: Anefo/Hans van Dijk via Nationaal Archief
Bram Peper (right) at his inauguration in Rotterdam in 1982. Photo: Anefo/Hans van Dijk via Nationaal Archief

Former mayor of Rotterdam and home affairs minister Bram Peper, who died on Saturday aged 82, attracted praise and criticism in almost equal measure, Dutch media said.

Peper grew up in a working-class family in Haarlem. A talented footballer, he chose instead to go to university where he studied economics and sociology.

He had political ambitions and joined the Labour party (PvdA) as a policy adviser at the beginning of the 1970s.

In 1982 Peper became mayor of Rotterdam, where his style of leadership did not go down well with everyone. Arrogant behaviour, which he refuted in an infamous interview with Ischa Meijer, and heavy drinking alternated with a go-getting mentality, although Peper said he was given too little space to make his own decisions.

As Rotterdam changed and grew under his tenure, Peper left a model of the now iconic Erasmus bridge in the office of then infrastructure minister Hanka Maij-Weggen to persuade her to make room for it in her budget. Impressed, she let him have his way.

After 16 years as mayor Peper left Rotterdam for national politics in 1998 to serve as home affairs minister under PvdA leader Wim Kok. A year later he was accused of using 100,000 guilders of public money to finance an extravagant lifestyle during his time as mayor.

Peper stepped down to clear his name and the affair is now regarded as a tit-for-tat action by disgruntled former council workers. Peper was cleared of wrongdoing, although some of his expenses remained questionable.

However, the affair put paid to his political career. He opted for a professorship at Erasmus university and did not venture into the political arena again.

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