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Soccer is the most popular sport. If they lack a ball, boys may substitute plastic bags wrapped in twine or grapefruits. Girls enjoy handball, and all Malagasy are fondof dance and music. The fanorona is a traditional game played by strategically placing small stones in hollows of a board or the ground. Solitaire is both a game and a decoration. It consists of apolished round wooden board laden with lustrous semiprecious stones in carved holes.

National holidays are New Year's Day, Martyrs' Day (29 March, honoring those killedwhen French troops suppressed the 1947 insurrection), Labor Day (1 May), Independence Day (26 June), All Saints' Day (1 Nov.), Christmas, and the Anniversary of the Republic (30 Dec.). Schools andbusinesses observe Easter Monday, Pentecost Monday, and Ascension. Students have a holiday from July to October and around Christmas. New Year's Eve is a night for formal bals (dances) at fancy hotelsor friends' houses. These parties bear a French influence but are opened with customary afindrafindrao, Malagasy line dancing: one couple leads off dancing and the other couples follow like a train.Government

Madagascar's president (currently acting president Andry Rajoelina) is head of state. The president is elected to a five-year term and appoints a prime minister(currently Albert Camille Vital) as head of government. Parliament consists of a 127-seat National Assembly and a 100-seat Senate. All members of parliament serve four-year terms. Members of the NationalAssembly are directly elected. Two-thirds of the senators represent regional assemblies; the president selects the remaining third. Religious coalitions act as important pressure groups. The votingage is 18.

The Malagasy economy is based on agriculture, with 80 percent of people engaged in subsistence farming. Many farmers are also employed in an export-oriented...
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