Hashim Thaci is a veteran of the ethnic Albanians’ drive to break away from Serbia. He began agitating for the Kosovo Albanian cause while still in his teens, and first came to prominence as the political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the guerrilla group that took up arms against Serb forces in the late 1990s.
He became known outside Kosovo when he formed part of the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team at internationally-sponsored peace talks at Rambouillet, France, early in 1999.
He made such a powerful impression at the talks that he succeeded in sidelining veteran Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova – who was more in favour of passive resistance to Serbia – and was appointed leader of the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team.
After the talks broke down and NATO launched its air campaign against Serbia that resulted in Kosovo becoming a UN protectorate, Mr Rugova reasserted his authority within the province and officially became president in 2002.
Meanwhile, Mr Thaci underwent a gradual process of transformation from fiery left-wing guerrilla to respectable politician. His Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) emerged out of the KLA and finally won an election in November 2007.
Some analysts believe that the years spent by Mr Thaci as prime minister-in-waiting allowed him to hone his political skills and made him into one of the province’s most moderate leaders.
On being elected prime minister, he made an attempt to reach out to Kosovo’s dwindling Serbian minority by switching to speaking Serbian as he called on the Serbs to consider Kosovo their home.
Mr Thaci’s party consolidated its position in local elections in November 2009, in a vote that was seen as a crucial test of the democratic credentials of the Kosovo government.
The governing coaltion collapsed in October 2010 when the junior partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), withdrew.
The following month, parliament passed a vote of no-confidence in Mr Thaci’s minority government, and snap elections were set for 12 December.
Hasim Thaci was born in 1968 in the Drenica region, a stronghold of the ethnic Albanian revolt against Serbia.
He was a student activist in 1989-91, and later went underground to join the KLA, which was formed in 1993. It was at that time that he acquired the nom de guerre of “the Snake” on account of his success in evading capture.