Tansu was born in Istanbul and was educated in Turkey and the United States. She studied economics, earning her PhD from the University of Connecticut. She completed her post-doctoral research at Yale University before lecturing at universities in the United States and in Turkey. At the age of 36 she became Turkey’s youngest full time professor. She went on to become the President of Istanbul Bank.
She entered politics in 1990 after joining the True Path Party and was elected to the Turkish parliament the following year. She was named the economics minister in this parliament. She faced a number of issues during her time in this position due to an increase in the government debt which led to a downgrading in the country’s international credit rating. Following the death of President Turgut Ozal in 1993, a general election was called. Tansu became the party leader and was elected Prime Minister on the 25th of June. This marked the first time a woman was elected Prime Minister of Turkey and to date, no other woman has held this position.
During her reign as Prime Minister, she had to deal with an increase in fighting between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Kurdish separatist group PKK. Her government was¬†able to convince the United States to declare the PKK a terrorist group. During this time she also had to deal with a massive economic crisis. The Turkish Lira almost collapsed and she was forced to impose strict austerity measures to bring the country’s economy back from the brink of collapse. Following the general election of 1995 her party lost control of the government but they were part of a coalition which led to Tansu being named Deputy Prime Minister. She did face some criticism for this as she was working alongside those that she had criticised in the past.
Towards the later part of her political career she faced allegations of corruption while in office and following her defeat in the 2002 general election she stepped down as leader of the party and left politics. Today she is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders. This is an international network of current and former female presidents and prime ministers that work together to encourage and help women reach the highest positions in the political world.
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