Truly amazing scenes of joyous celebration are still going on in Egypt following the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak a few hours ago. The Egyptian people have every cause to celebrate the overthrow of a dictator through a revolution that they conducted with great dignity and unity. They were an inspiration to many people.
It is easy living in a western democracy to fail to understand what it must be like for people who have lived under the rule of dictators for generations. The fear of the secret police has evaporated now in Egypt as the people place their faith in a temporary army council which, it seems, will run the country on an interim basis.
Given the conduct of the army so far there is hope that the army will stay true to the clear expressed will of the people and that it will help guide the country to free elections and democracy.
The members of the regime may yet try more tricks though. There will be those in Egypt who feel their livelihoods or wealth threatened by the collapse of the regime and they will look for ways to retain influence. It may not be impossible for example that we will see characters like Suleiman backed by the former ruling NDP party re-emerge and contest elections. These natural right wingers may yet find a future accommodation with equally right wing conservative Muslim religious groups. That seems an unlikely pairing in the short to medium term but not so unlikely in the longer term.
The future political balance of the country is coming under the control of the Egyptian people now - which is where it should be. Their choices will have consequences for relations within the Middle East and beyond. Whatever those effects are though other countries will happily now at least need to deal with Egypt in future as a fellow democratic state - a nation reborn in a January revolution.