"I know that not too many people have good memories of that day [March 24]," Bakiyev said, referring to the massive rioting and looting that ensued after Akayev fled the country. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "Anxiety and unease came to many families on that day. Honest businessmen suffered losses. ... We must ensure that we do not have such hard times again."
The festivities, in particular the military parade, generated considerable controversy. Bakiyev critics asserted that the president was trying to use the holiday to intimidate political opponents and divert popular attention away from the administration's inability to foster stability since it assumed power. In an interview broadcast by the Pyramida television, Edil Baisalov, the head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, said it was improper to honor security forces, given that the security forces failed to preserve order during the March events in 2005.
"This is a day of shame, if not for the nation, but for the National Guard and police officers, for the entire law-enforcement system which allowed the chaos and the collapse of the country to happen on that day," Baisalov said.
During a news conference on the eve of the holiday, Bakiyev urged his disgraced predecessor, Akayev, to ask for public forgiveness. Until Akayev and his family members admitted to abusing the people's trust, the former leader would not be allowed to return to Kyrgyzstan, Bakiyev indicated.
"My impression is that ... Askar Akayevich [Akayev] and [his wife] Mayram Duyshenovna [Akayeva] don't realize what happened and why. If they have not realized this, it is not advisable for them to return," Bakiyev said. "They must understand with their hearts and minds why this [the revolution] happened, and ask the Kyrgyz people to forgive them. Only then should they think about returning home."
The incumbent blamed the existing difficulties on Akayev's misrule. Although critics worry about Bakiyev's backtracking on a pledge to shift greater powers from the executive branch to the legislative, the president insisted that his administration "would never retreat to authoritarianism." Trying to rekindle popular enthusiasm for his administration, Bakiyev added that Kyrgyzstan was getting into position to achieve "dynamic development," pledging that "the second and the most important stage of the revolution is starting."
The president's political opponents, especially members of parliament, viewed Bakiyev's revolution-related comments with considerable skepticism. At least, as some pointed out, the festivities were not accompanied by violence, or, as some had feared, a coup attempt.