WHAT’S THE STORY?
TOMORROW the French electorate go to the polls in the run-off vote to determine who will be the latest president of the Fifth Republic. The two candidates who survived from the first round are centrist Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche party and Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National.

It is the first time in the history of the country, whose constitution was established by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, that the run-off has been between two candidates from outside the main parties.

Macron has been the warm favourite since he came from behind in the opinion polls to win the first round, ousting principally Francois Fillon of the Republicans and Jean-Luc Melenchon of the left-wing La France Insoumise, with Benoit Hamon of the Socialists finishing a dismal fifth.

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With 24 per cent of the first-round votes Macron finished comfortably ahead of Le Pen who scored 21.3 per cent of the first-round votes, and he is expected to now gain the support of the other parties and candidates who mostly detest Le Pen and her party.

LE PEN’S NAME IS POISON, NON?
DUE to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen being the nasty, racist founder of the Front National, Marine Le Pen has a huge legacy from his time that she has tried and mostly failed to cast off. Her father surprised the world by making the run-off in the presidential election of 2002, but he was soundly beaten in the end and most pundits are predicting the same fate for Marine Le Pen, especially as she has watered down only a few of the Front’s policies and was herself exposed in a television debate as being not a very nice person.

THE TELEVISION DEBATE WAS SENSATIONAL, WASN’T IT?
ABSOLUTELY. The debate live on French television on Wednesday night was a corker, with both candidates slinging metaphorical buckets of mud at each other. Le Pen started brutally and never let up, virtually accusing the “smirking banker” of colluding with Islamic terrorists among other insults. Macron came back with accusations that Le Pen was a “hate-filled” liar who threatened to bring civil war to France.

The polls made Macron the clear winner in a debate in which he stuck more to policy issues than Le Pen, whose nastiness turned off even a lot of her own potential supporters. Macron also made hay with her inability to answer questions without recourse to her notes, and he scored heavily on the European Union issue over Le Pen’s policy of an in-out referendum on French membership. It would be very educational in our own General Election to see would-be President – sorry, Prime Minister – Theresa May in a similar live debate with say, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, but that’s not going to happen. The only conclusion can be that May feels similarly exposed as Le Pen.

THEY DON’T LIKE EACH OTHER, DO THEY?
THE debate made that very clear, but there was already bad blood between the two candidates, with Macron’s supporters playing up the racism of the Front while Le Pen’s fans accuse Macron of being in the pay of the rich and especially the bankers.

Macron has said she leads the “party of hatred” while Le Pen has accused him of being in thrall to globalisation. They both, however, claim to be anti-establishment, and since Le Pen always has been and Macron only set up En Marche a year ago, they might have a point. Bizarrely, they both have interesting personal lives. Le Pen, a lawyer by profession, was twice married to, and divorced from, senior officers of the Front National. Her current partner Louis Aliot is the party’s general secretary who helped her oust her own father from the Front after he went one racist remark too far in 2015.

Macron is famously married to his former teacher Brigitte Trogneux who, at 64, is 25 years older than the 39-year-old favourite to win tomorrow.

HOW DID THE LAST CAMPAIGN DAY GO?
UNDER French law, no campaigning is allowed on the day before the election, ie today. The so-called election silence meant frantic and continuing personal insults yesterday, with Macron filing a lawsuit over one of Le Pen’s television barbs that he had a secret bank account in the Caribbean, and Le Pen – who was loudly heckled on a visit to Reims Cathedral – accusing Macron of allowing “migratory submersion”.

The last polls saw Macron ahead by an average of 24-25 percentage points and unlike elsewhere, French polls are usually pretty accurate.