This paper analyses recent changes in the industrial relations (IR) system in the Maldives. Critical incidents were compiled from interview and document data and analysed using a quasi-grounded theory approach. The analysis shows that, precipitated by the political events of September 2003, profound democratic and IR changes took place, including the emergence of new IR actors and institutions. However, the outcomes of these profound changes were short-lived, reverting to old undemocratic practices and arrangements. The paper highlights the reasons why democratic change occurred as it did in the Maldives and why it reversed.