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【質問】pythonで%を使うとどうなるの?

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pythonのreturn文やprint文で%がつかわれているのを度々見ます。
しかし、%の使い方はネットで調べてもピンとくるものがありません。

例えば下のコードは、二分グラフを作るコードの一部を抜き出したものですが、return文内で%が使われています。

class Vertex(object):
    """A Vertex is a node in  a graph"""
    def __init__(self, label = ''):
        self.label = label
    def __repr__(self):
        return 'Vertex(%s)' % repr(self.label)
    __str__ = __repr__

質問

  1. この%はどのような意味があるのでしょうか。
  2. 同時に、__str__ = __repr__ の意味もよくわからないのでお聞かせねがいたいです。
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