For the first time since they were ousted five years ago, Bulgaria's former Communists are poised to retake power when Bulgarians go to the polls Sunday.

Opinion polls give the Socialist Party, made up of former Communists, about 30 percent of the vote and the staunchly anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces 20 percent. A party representing ethnic Turks is a distant third.In the last elections, in October 1991, the Socialists won 106 seats, second to UDF's 110. Neither had a majority in the 240-seat parliament. That led to a succession of weak governments unable to push through reforms and dependent on the Turkish party, which held the balance of power.

Across Central and Eastern Europe, one-time Communists are on the rise. In Hungary, they swept May elections. In Slovakia, a new party espousing orthodox communist views is part of a new governing coalition that took power this week.

Filip Dimitrov, the UDF leader, has ruled out a coalition with the Socialists.

The two major parties appear to agree on only one thing: the need to combat rampant crime and corruption that threaten to undermine the still shaky democratic system.

Annual inflation in Bulgaria is expected to reach 120 percent by the end of the year. Some 70 percent of the population of 8.5 million live on the verge of poverty, and about 740,000 are jobless.

The Socialists, led by 35-year-old economist Zhan Videnov, now support market reforms. But they plead for a slow transition to avoid hardship for those with low incomes, including pensioners and the unemployed.

At a final rally on Friday, Videnov exuded confidence.

"All our supporters and opponents understand that we are the constructive force capable of taking the country out of the crisis and destruction," he said.