DHAKA, Bangladesh — Supporters of rival candidates fought each other with rocks, sticks and guns during local elections Wednesday, killing more than 50 people and injuring hundreds of others across Bangladesh.
Reports from police, hospitals and journalists in outlying villages said the injury toll could exceed 1,000. More than 200 people were arrested, police said.
Voting was suspended at dozens of polling places because of the violence. Some of the sites were ransacked, and ballots were stolen in others.
The outbreaks triggered fears of more violence during parliamentary elections next month which the major opposition parties have vowed to boycott.
Wednesday's election was to select more than 44,000 mayors and members of local councils. The councils, which will serve for three years, are responsible for development activities at the local level in this poverty-stricken country of 105 million. More than 133,000 people sought posts on 4,376 village councils. Results are to be announced beginning today.
The candidates, by law, are not affiliated with political parties, but some of them have been identified with the governing Jatiya Party and opposition groups.
Drive to Oust Ershad
Major opposition parties have been waging a campaign of strikes and demonstrations since Nov. 10 to oust President Hussain Mohammed Ershad, who has said he will not resign.
The major opposition parties have said they will boycott parliamentary elections called by Ershad for March 3 because voting held under Ershad's administration will not be fair.
Ershad, 58, a former army general, took power in a bloodless coup in 1982. He lifted military law after winning a presidential election in 1986.
But opposition leaders say the presidential balloting and parliamentary elections that year were rigged. They have insisted that he step down and that a neutral caretaker government be put in place to oversee new voting.