The election for a Northern Ireland assembly yesterday was marked by a rash of bomb scares, scattered charges of ballot fraud and a generally cool response from voters.

The contest, to select 78 members of a consultative assembly that would advise the government, came after a campaign that led to a sharp increase in violence locally--largely attributed to a small left-wing group, the Irish National Liberation Army--Washington Post correspondent Peter Osnos reported.

The group has claimed responsibility for the deaths of eight persons in the past month, the wounding of a school principal in front of a Bible class Monday and Tuesday's explosion at the headquarters of a leading Protestant party.

Yesterday, the leftist group claimed another bomb, placed only a few yards from where the party's leader, James Molyneaux, was eating breakfast. Bomb experts defused the device. At least three other small bombs or incendiaries were located during the day, but there were no reports of injuries.

Voter turnout was said to be spotty and the final tally could be well below the predicted 65 percent of the province's 1 million voters.

Counting of the ballots begins today and is not to be completed until Friday because of a complex system in which voters are allowed to choose four candidates in order of preference.