The leading politician of the Albanian majority in Kosova (usually known in English under its Serbian name Kosovo). Before the situation broke out into war, he had been elected President in elections unrecognized by the Serbian rulers. He took part in the Rambouillet peace talks as the apparent choice of the Kosovars, against the more violent tendencies of the armed KLA.

However, when serious violence broke out, his response was seen as ineffective, and it was felt that he had betrayed the Kosovar people. He was taken to Belgrade and persuaded to take part in a conciliatory television appearance. Later he went into exile in Italy, where he remained while the NATO war against Serbia took place.

For some time after that it was assumed he was a spent force, and the young KLA leader Hashim Thaci was the new leader of Kosova Albanians. But in elections held this month (17 November 2001) Rugova's party, the LDK or Kosova Democratic League, have taken a commanding lead, with almost half the vote, leaving the war-hero KLA and other parties far behind. (He was elected president of Kosova in 2002.)

Ibrahim Rugova is a genial, mild-mannered academic, born in 1944, who is usually seen wearing a scarf. Although a "moderate", he still seeks total independence for Kosova, something the European powers are unwilling to countenance.