They wanted to take on their political rivals in an electoral showdown over the course of the city's democratisation, but they have ended up facing a ragbag of fringe candidates. It was not what Tanya Chan and Alan Leong Kah-kit, from the Civic Party, and Wong Yuk-man, Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip, from the League of Social Democrats, were expecting when they quit the legislature in January to trigger the May 16 polls. So, in the next 51/2 weeks, how can they persuade the 3 million eligible voters to turn out and cast their ballots - and thereby achieve the groups' goal of a 'de facto referendum' on universal suffrage? Chinese University academic Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the two groups faced the risk of the theme of their campaign being 'muddled' by the great variety of candidates. 'Other people will not care about the script you are working with, and the Civic Party and the league may not have the power to bring the focus of the debate back to universal suffrage,' Choy said. On top of the various livelihood issues and the bizarre platforms raised by the lesser-known candidates, one main threat promising to divert people's attention is possible infighting between the candidates from the Civic Party, current and former league members, and students pushing for the introduction of universal suffrage by 2012. In a meeting last night to discuss strategy in the run-up to the election, the two groups scrambled for ways to enliven the campaign. Speaking before the meeting, league chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang said one possible way to ensure the focus was on universal suffrage was to combine the total number of votes gained by the five former lawmakers with the five students when assessing whether the exercise was successful. 'This way, people will have a clearer sense of the level of public support on the speedy introduction of genuine universal suffrage,' To said. In an effort to demonstrate unity following a pan-democrat no-show at Sunday's march in support of the campaign, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan called on the electorate to vote on May 16 in order to fulfil their civic duty. Meanwhile, 27 local civil groups formed the People's Movement against Functional Constituencies Using One Vote yesterday, urging the public to vote in the by-elections. Member organisations include the Confederation of Trade Unions, Civic Act-up, prostitutes' rights group Zi Teng, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, student groups, old people's groups and district resident groups.