As an Olympian, Ms. Hashimoto was selected for a total of seven Summer and Winter Games in the 1980s and ’90s, competing in speedskating and cycling. She won a bronze medal in the 1,500-meter speedskating event at the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, in 1992, becoming one of the first two Japanese women to win a medal at a Winter Games.
Ms. Hashimoto entered politics when Mr. Mori was secretary-general of the Liberal Democrats, and she joined his political faction, one of a handful of influential groupings that can determine the careers of lawmakers in Japan.
“I think Ms. Hashimoto was selected so that Mr. Mori’s influence can be maintained,” said Atsuo Ito, an independent political analyst and former staff member for both the Liberal Democrats and the opposition Democratic Party. “She’s a puppet of Mr. Mori.”
Earlier this week, her party created another storm over gender equality, when Toshihiro Nikai, 82, the current secretary-general, said he would invite women to observe the party’s executive board meeting but not permit them to speak.
Ms. Nojo, a leader in No Youth, No Japan, a nonprofit group, said that Ms. Hashimoto had done important work on gender equality: pushing to make the morning-after birth control pill available as an over-the-counter drug at pharmacies, helping to establish one-stop centers for victims of sexual violence and advocating that women be allowed to keep their surnames after marriage.
“We think it’s quite a bit of a loss not having her in the cabinet,” Ms. Nojo said.
Still, Kazuko Fukuda, a women’s rights activist who was another author of the petition, said she was glad the Olympic committee had ultimately “really valued the people’s voices” when abandoning its initial selection of Mr. Kawabuchi.
“It seemed like it was already decided without any meeting or discussion,” Ms. Fukuda said. “For a long time, everything was decided at the dinner table after work, so that many people who have to do care work, mainly women, could not join the important decision-making process, which really disservices women.”