Myanmar's state media confirmed 66-yr-old Win Myint was poised to take over new role
Critics say the quality of debate during his tenure as speaker deteriorated as he silenced dissenting voices
Win Myint, the long-serving member of Myanmar's ruling party who is expected to become the country's next president within days, is described by colleagues as a skilled political operator with a crucial quality - loyalty to de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The job is vacant after another Suu Kyi loyalist, Htin Kyaw, resigned due to ill-health on Wednesday.
Suu Kyi - who remains a national heroine in Myanmar despite growing international criticism over the Rohingya crisis in the northwest - is barred by the military-drafted constitution from assuming the top job because her sons have British citizenship.
Still, she wields absolute authority in the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) after vowing on the eve of her 2015 election victory to run the country from "above the president" - an arrangement that means the change is unlikely to distort the balance of power in a country where the army remains powerful.
State media confirmed yesterday the 66-year-old Win Myint was poised to take over when the country's parliament elects a new president, in a vote that must be held within seven days, after he resigned as lower house speaker on Wednesday.
"U Win Myint, 66, is considered to be one of the candidates for the presidency, which was vacated by U Htin Kyaw for health reasons," said the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar daily.
Suu Kyi is known for keeping her cards close to her chest and operating with a very narrow group of trusted advisors. Win Myint, who has been an NLD member from its humble beginnings almost three decades ago, is among the few to whom she has given serious responsibility since taking office almost two years ago.
Win Myint comes from Myanmar's southern agricultural heartland in the Ayeyarwady delta region. He worked as a senior lawyer in the 1980s and took part in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, later serving three years in an internment camp.
Win Myint's critics, including some Yangon-based diplomats, say that while he is loyal and honest, the quality of debate during his tenure as speaker deteriorated as he silenced dissenting voices - including those from the NLD.
Nyo Nyo Thin, a former Yangon region lawmaker, has criticised Win Myint's performance as the speaker, saying parliament, where the NLD enjoys a comfortable majority, was not robust enough in performing its check-and-balance role.
Parliament yesterday elected a new lower house speaker and laid the ground for a presidential vote expected today or Monday.