It has not been the easiest year for democracies in the West, with storm clouds gathering over Brexit and also now over next year's U.S. presidential election. But it is not just Western democracies that face problems. Protests in Hong Kong and Russia show the limits of what many see in the West as autocratic power.

In Hong Kong, the huge demonstrations against Chinese rule have deepened a crisis that now threatens those in power on the mainland. In Moscow, more than 1,000 people were detained on July 27 after an unauthorized protest demanding that members of the opposition be allowed to run in a local election. It was one of the biggest crackdowns of recent years against opponents of President Vladimir Putin's tight grip on power.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has also had a difficult few months. Ekrem Imamoglu, an opposition politician with a very different platform to the ruling AKP, became mayor of Istanbul in an election that was re-run after a court found irregularities with the first vote — also won by Imamoglu.