Kyrgyzstan's president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, on Friday and ordered troops to take to the streets to restore order.
The announcement came as large rallies gathered on Friday in the fifth consecutive day of protests.
Fistfights broke out between rival factions and gunshots were fired into the air, according to an AFP correspondent on the scene. Key leaders were evacuated from the area.
The state of emergency includes a curfew and tight security restrictions. It will go into effect at 8 p.m. on Friday (14:00 UCT) and will last until October 21.
The president's office did not say how many troops would be deployed, but said checkpoints would be set up and military vehicles sent out.
The Central Asian country has been in a state of unrest since opposition supporters seized government buildings in the night between Monday and Tuesday following Sunday's controversial parliamentary elections, which were later annulled.
In the ensuing protests, at least one person died and hundreds were injured.
President 'ready to leave office'?
Jeenbekov said earlier on Friday he was ready to resign once a new Cabinet was appointed.
"We need to get the situation back to the rule of law as soon as possible. After legitimate executive authorities have been approved and we are back on the path of lawfulness, I am ready to leave the post of president of the Kyrgyz Republic," said Jeenbekov on Friday morning.
The president's statement was an abrupt U-turn after days of rival politicians claiming leadership positions. But hours later, Jeenbekov denied claims he may be planning to resign. He has made no public appearances since Monday and it was unclear if the offer to resign stood after he declared the state of emergency later on Friday.
Replacement leadership remains murky
Russia called on security forces earlier in the week to restore order, describing the situation in the former Soviet republic as "chaos." Borders were largely closed on Thursday following clashes between police and protesters.
It remains unclear which candidate or party would replace Jeenbekov. After forcing the Cabinet to resign and the election commission to annul the results of Sunday's parliamentary election that triggered the protests, opposition groups have so far failed to agree on who would lead a provisional government.
Kyrgyzstan's outgoing parliament has also not convened or appointed one of at least three interim premier candidates, with some MPs saying they feared for their safety.
Two political parties close to Jeenbekov swept Sunday's parliamentary vote, but at least 11 other parties have refused to accept the results. Observers said the election was marred by credible allegations of vote-buying.
If Jeenbekov were to resign, he would become the third Kyrgyz leader to be felled by political unrest after uprisings unseated authoritarian presidents in 2005 and 2010.
ed, ab/msh (AFP, Reuters)