By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Dhaka
Negotiations over who will oversee the next elections in Bangladesh appear to have broken down, throwing the country into a political crisis.
The government says it will act to prevent political violence
The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party has rejected an opposition demand on electoral reforms ahead of the polls.
PM Khaleda Zia will hand over power to a caretaker authority over the weekend at the end of her five-year rule.
But the main opposition Awami League is unhappy over the government's choice to lead the caretaker administration.
He is former Chief Justice KM Hasan.
The government's last day in office is Friday but the ruling and the main opposition parties are at loggerheads over what happens next.
Both sides have called on their supporters to be ready for confrontations on the streets.
The caretaker government - the supposedly neutral interim administration that is due to take power after the prime minister's term in office ends on Friday - will rule until the elections expected in January.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League have had a series of meetings to try to find a solution but now they appear to have ruled out a compromise.
The BNP is insisting KM Hasan, the last chief justice to retire, must be in charge but the Awami League says he is a BNP stooge.
They have called on their supporters to come to the capital armed with oars and sticks to resist by force if he is sworn into office.
The meetings had gripped Bangladesh, with live coverage on television.
The fact that the two parties were talking at all seemed to offer a glimmer of hope that a confrontation could be avoided.
Those hopes now seem to have been dashed and the scene is set for a violent and bloody election campaign.