Seven people died in violent clashes during the Philippine elections on Monday, and a mayoral candidate launched a mortar attack on his opponents, officials said.

But officials said the voting was more peaceful than past elections in most of the country.The violent flare-ups - in a country with a long history of bloody elections - brought to 41 the number of people killed between Monday and the start of the campaign, police said.

Officials said 55 people were killed in the 1995 congressional elections and 60 killed in the presidential election in 1992.

Most of the violence was in small areas in the south of the country, long troubled by clan and religious conflicts.

The latest deaths included four civilians killed in gunbattles between supporters of mayoral candidates in southern Lanao del Sur province, a politician's bodyguard who was abducted and killed in central Samar island and a councilman shot in northern Abra, police said.

One campaign worker was stabbed to death in a fight inside the municipal hall of Manila's Makati financial district. More than two dozen were injured in the incidents.

In the remote Jolo island, 11 people were injured when armed supporters of an incumbent mayor fired seven mortar rounds into the stronghold of his opponent, a police report said.

"All of those candidates have goons. . . . You never run for mayor in these towns unless you have guns," Abdulgani Marohombsar, regional chairman of the National Movement for Free Election (NAMFREL), told Reuters by telephone.

NAMFREL is run by businessmen and church officials and has been officially designated to monitor the polls and make a backup vote count.

Voting appeared to be generally peaceful elsewhere in the country as millions of Filipinos in one of the world's rowdiest democracies went to the polls to elect some 17,000 officials ranging from the president to local councilors.

"Boring," armed forces chief Brigadier-General Brig. Gen. Clemente said of Monday's voting. "I felt sleepy."

Violence has marred all Philippine elections, mostly among contestants for provincial and municipal posts.