Two rival factions claimed the right to form a government in Kyrgyzstan Wednesday, with pro-Russian President Sooronbay Jeenbekov unable to impose control on the post-election chaos engulfing the Central Asian country.
The instability has followed parliamentary elections on Sunday won by supporters of Jeenbekov but which the opposition and monitors said were marred by vote-buying.
The authorities have since annulled the results of the elections, but this has yet to soothe the mood of protesters who released key opposition figures from jail in a night of mayhem in Bishkek on Monday.
Those freed included populist nationalist Sadyr Japarov, who heads the Mekenchil political party and claimed the premiership less than 24 hours after he walked free.
He was declared acting prime minister during an extraordinary session of the parliament held in a hotel after the parliament building was seized by protesters during the unrest, a spokesman for the legislature said Wednesday.
But several political parties that competed in Sunday's vote have said they do not recognise his election, which came as his supporters surrounded the hotel in what some saw as a bid to intimidate the rival lawmakers.
There is no indication whether President Jeenbekov -- who has not appeared in public since the unrest began -- plans to sign off on the appointment of the new prime minister after the resignation of his predecessor, Kubatbek Boronov, on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have proposed that Tilek Toktagaziyev, a 29-year-old social entrepreneur, should become the acting prime minister before new elections.
Japarov, 51, told reporters in Bishkek that Jeenbekov should resign in order "to settle the situation."
He called the opposition parties meeting in the prime minister's office "counter-revolutionaries" and hinted that the situation could escalate.
"The counter-revolutionaries want to hand out weapons to people," said Japarov, without offering evidence.
"If it turns into a civil war, that isn't on me."
- 'Looting not a solution' -
The annulment of the polls on Tuesday failed to quell unrest that has left hundreds with injuries and at least one man dead, according to the health ministry.
An AFP correspondent witnessed clashes between Japarov supporters and youth activists defending the doors of a government building that houses the premier's office.
Inside the building, opposition parties were meeting to discuss the formation of an interim government that will rule over the country until fresh parliamentary elections can be held.
"Sadyr, Sadyr, Sadyr!" Japarov's supporters shouted. "Shame, shame, shame!" they shouted at the youth activists who were blocking the doors to the government building.
Several hundred Japarov supporters attempted to charge through the activists' column and force their way into the building where the opposition parties were meeting before they were eventually dispersed.
Volunteer brigades meanwhile were bracing for another night of disorder as they took to the streets to defend businesses and public places from other groups roaming through the capital.
"We don't fight the looters. We just find out where they are going and head them off," said Eldar Sydykov, a coordinator of the voluntary brigades. "We tell them that this is our city and that looting is not a solution, but a crime."
Jeenbekov, who has accused the opposition of trying to overthrow him, thanked the volunteers and urged political forces to "return to the rule of law."
The crisis is the latest political turbulence to hit the nation of 6.5 million people that shares a border with China and hosts a Russian military base.
Kyrgyzstan is widely considered the most democratic state in ex-Soviet Central Asia, but has nonetheless been dogged by years of political volatility and has witnessed two revolutions since independence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told state television that he hoped "normal democratic processes will resume ... as soon as possible" in the republic.