Kingmaker in the Assembly
Q: Can either Macron or Le Pen win a majority in the Assembly election in June?
A: Emmanuel Macron is not guaranteed a majority, which he achieved in 2017, if he is reelected. The traditional centre-Left and centre-Right parties would have to dramatically improve their results to stand any chance of joining him in an alliance.
Mr Mélenchon is bullish over his chances of becoming kingmaker if he can turn his strong third place showing into results in the Assembly elections. He has his sights set on being prime minister.
A Le Pen victory would also not lead directly to a majority. She would probably need to form a coalition with hard-Right firebrand Éric Zemmour but that would require her to forgive his poaching of some of her National Rally allies.
Left in the middle
Q: Why do these candidates never visit small rural towns in the middle of France?
A: Rural voters have often felt forgotten by the elites in the big French cities and by Mr Macron in particular.
The president has made efforts to remedy this with a new “rural agenda” and toured several small country towns in December.
Ms Le Pen is on surer ground in the rural heartlands, which is territory where she enjoys significant support.
The National Rally leader made “deep France” and the cost of living central to her campaign and left issues such as immigration to Mr Zemmour.
But the fact remains that there are far fewer voters in small rural towns, which is why they are often neglected in favour of larger cities.
War of words on Ukraine
Q: What is Marine Le Pen’s stance on the war in Ukraine?
A: Ms Le Pen has a long and public track record of admiration for Vladimir Putin, which Mr Macron has ruthlessly highlighted in the dying days of the election.
Her National Rally took loans from Russian banks and as recently as February she was insisting Mr Putin did not plan to invade Ukraine.
While Mr Macron calls Mr Putin her “banker”, Ms Le Pen calls any suggestion of collusion with Russia a lie.
She says she has compassion for Ukrainians but has also vowed to block EU sanctions on Russian oil and gas if elected.
She has called for a rapprochement between Moscow and Nato as soon as the war in Ukraine is over.
Q: How are the votes counted and integrity guaranteed?
French votes are overwhelmingly cast on paper ballots and counted by hand.
Despite occasional calls for modernisation, France does not use voting machines en masse or allow early voting. Postal votes were banned in 1975, amid fears of fraud, and only a handful of towns use machines. Proxy voting is allowed.
Votes are cast in person in a booth with curtains closed. The ballot is placed in an envelope that is put in a transparent ballot box. Photo identification must be shown and a document signed to complete the process.
Volunteers count the ballots one by one. State-run software is used to register and report results. If a result is challenged, the paper ballots are recounted by hand.