Communist leaders freed more than 250 political prisoners Saturday on the eve of the nation's first multiparty election after 46 years of Stalinist rule.

The 258 detainees released join 123 political prisoners freed two weeks ago, said Arben Puto, a human rights activist. He said 27 political prisoners still remain jailed.Premier Fatos Nano had pledged to free all political prisoners before the elections, which culminate Albania's transition from decades of isolationism and hard-line rule.

Both the Communists and newly formed opposition groups expressed confidence in the final days of the campaign in this mountainous country of 3.2 million people.

In Kruje, like in many other northern cities, support is strong for the Democratic Party, the Communists' strongest challenger.

Backers - including some soldiers wearing the Communist red star on their caps - on Saturday flashed V-for-victory signs, the Democrats' rallying symbol.

Communist President Ramiz Alia also has predicted victory. His Party of Labor still has widespread support in rural areas, where about two-thirds of the nation's 1.9 million voters live.

The elections Sunday will seat a new 250-member People's Assembly, or parliament. Albania is the last of the Eastern European nations to hold multiparty elections since the collapse of Communist rule in the region.

The Communists are contesting 243 seats, while the Democratics are campaigning for all 250. The Republican Party - seen as a compromise between the Communists and Democrats - is contesting 165 seats. The Agrarian and Ecological parties are fielding only a handful of candidates.

The parliament will name the president, adopt a new constitution, and tackle the economic problems that have led to protests and a wave of refugees fleeing the Balkan nation.