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The Japan Medical Association, a key support group for the Liberal Democratic Party, on Thursday elected Haruo Uematsu, an Osaka doctor who has criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s medical-reform drive, as its new president.

Uematsu, 72, head of JMA’s Osaka prefectural arm, will lead the national organization, comprising about 159,000 doctors across Japan, for the next two years. He defeated two others vying for the post, including JMA Vice President Takashi Aoyagi, 61, who has been more supportive of medical reforms.

A total of 342 representatives cast ballots at JMA headquarters in Tokyo, with 211 votes for Uematsu, 127 for Aoyagi and none for Masahiro Kanamaru, 38, of an Osaka Red Cross blood center. Four votes were left blank.

Uematsu has pledged to fight Koizumi’s medical reforms centered on curbing Japan’s medical expenditures and having patients shoulder a heavier fee burden.

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