The dramatic departure of Justice Minister Yusril Mahendra came as 50,000 people in Wahid's home province staged violent protests against attempts to impeach the president for alleged corruption. Parliament censured Wahid last week over the allegations, the first step toward impeachment.
Pro-Wahid mobs rampaged through Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, setting fire to the office of a rival political party which has been pushing for him to leave office. It was the biggest demonstration in Indonesia in the 15 months since Wahid became its first democratically elected head of state in more than four decades.
"This is a bitter lesson. This is the price of democracy," Wahid told reporters at the presidential palace.
Wahid said Mahendra had quit after his ministerial colleagues criticized him for publicly suggesting that the president should leave office over his alleged role in two multimillion-dollar graft scandals.
Mahendra's departure follows that Jan. 2 of Administrative Reform Minister Ryaas Rasyid, who had overseen a plan to decentralize power in Indonesia. Rasyid said the government was moving too slowly to implement the plan and was unprepared.
Until now, Wahid has boasted that he enjoyed the full backing of his Cabinet.
However, the panel found no proof that Wahid benefitted personally from the schemes. But lawmakers angered by his intransigence and erratic style of government used the findings to initiate the parliamentary procedure.
Last week's parliamentary censure requires Wahid to explain his actions within three months. If he fails to respond, lawmakers can give him one more month. After that he can be impeached.
Wahid, who maintains his innocence in the corruption case, has rejected calls for him to quit.
The head of Indonesia's lower legislative house, Amien Rais, is pressing for a special impeachment session within eight weeks. A normal impeachment proceeding could take four months to launch.
But on Monday two leading parties and the military rejected the move for an early session, effectively killing the proposal.
Analysts expect him to survive for now because of the fears of violence if he loses office, the lack of a credible alternative and the complexity of the impeachment proceedings.
The violent support for the cleric highlights the dangers the world's fourth most populous state faces if he is ousted.
Heavily outnumbered security forces in Wahid's political heartland of East Java fired warning shots and teargas to try to quell the angry protests, the biggest since he became Indonesia's first democratically elected leader 15 months ago.
Wahid called on the masses to exercise restraint despite efforts to impeach him.
Witnesses said one protester was shot in the neck. There were reports of at least two other injuries from the rampage.
Around 2,000 Wahid supporters also took to the streets in the key central Java cities of Yogyakarta and Semarang.
Salim Said, a prominent political analyst, said that despite the pro-Wahid protests, the president was rapidly losing support.
"Everyone has abandoned Wahid," Salim said. "He is afraid that what happened in the Philippines could happen here," referring to the protests that drove Philippine President Joseph Estrada from office last month.
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