"I give my firm assurances that the incumbent government is keeping the situation under its full control," President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in a televised address to the nation. "Tough measures will be taken against anyone who acts unlawfully. The situation is being monitored by me personally."
Some 1,500 supporters of opposition candidate Ryspek Akmatbayev gathered in the early morning outside the government headquarters in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, to protest against the Central Electoral Commission's decision to bar Akmatbayev from running for parliament in an April 9 by-election, citing his criminal record.
Bakiyev harshly criticized the Cabinet for not going out to ask what the protesters' grievances were.
"Instead of coming out to meet the people, our ministers were in session, discussing how the rally could be suppressed by force," he said, promising to bring those responsible to account.
Bakiyev also called on businesses not to close in panic, assuring that the government would make every effort to maintain law and order.
In Bishkek, offices and shops are being closed, and goods shifted, for fear of disturbances similar to the March 2005 "tulip revolution," which ousted President Askar Akayev and swept the current president into power.