As the name suggests, the glass-facade, 40-storey Bangunan UMNO is the headquarters of Malaysia’s largest political party, the United Malays National Organization, remaining in power since the nation birth in 1957. They lead a coalition called Barisan Nasional consisting of mainly three parties, the other two being the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), against some smaller opposition parties.
The country holds a multi-party system, but the coalition has always been enjoying landslide victories throughout time, to the extent where some, within the party, has voiced concern over the absolutism that hardly gets in check.
UMNO’s towering power
“90% majority (vote) is too strong. We need opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right,” said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 2005.
Prime minister succession in his country had all come from UMNO. He was the fourth, and the longest serving.
Democratic or not, all countries have each of their own predominant political organization, but few have a party akin to Malaysia’s that could stay in power uncontested since the birth of the nation.
And among those few, none have the privilege to build a stoic headquarters 175 meters tall which is arguably the world’s tallest building that conspicuously bears the name of a political organization, not to mention the future plan to develop a super bloc PWTC KL housing luxury hotel, convention center, and a 70-storey skyscraper to mark 70 years of age for UMNO by 2020.
Opened in 1985 for mainly commercial-use, Bangunan UMNO is also called the Dato Onn Tower, named after the party founder Dato Onn Jaafar.
The Communist Party of China certainly has the land and all the resources to flaunt grandiose headquarters as they did when they came to power by building a central government office that also houses the ruling communist party office to be bigger than the Forbidden City. However, they did not come close to construct skyscrapers or a business district at the city center and put the letter CPC on top of it.
Its neighbor Indonesia was once ruled by a party whose power went uncontested for 32 years. Having had bolstered an image as the initiator of the country’s economic development, yet they did not construct Golkar Tower whatsoever. Instead, their new office complex showcases an interesting design.
But there are similar instances elsewhere to compare.
High-rise party headquarters
Ušće Tower, built in 1964, remained the tallest building in Serbian capital Belgrade to date. It was home to the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, the country’s communist party. Its supreme political status made it an airstrike target by NATO forces during the Balkan crisis in the late 90’s, despite of no strategic value. Several years later it underwent a revamp to add a shopping mall, thus restored the prime sense of modernity at the city center.
Named also after a leading political figure, Metzudat Ze’ev is an example of a high-rise office for political party in Israel, Likud. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was central in the 60’s Revisionist Zionism, a movement that sees a unified territory of Israel as opposed to the Arab-Jewish States of Palestine. Among the tallest building in 1963 at 60 meters high, it is now one of the oldest buildings in Tel Aviv, and remained a home for Likud-affiliated movement centers, institute, and museums, while the rest other space leased for private businesses.
Too high to afford
In the same year, London also saw the completion of Millbank Tower, an 118 meters building that housed the countries’ Labour and Conservative parties, although this was merely coincidental. The general function for office use subjected the parties to rents which steadily rises to the point where Labour party decided to vacate its headquarters a decade ago due to high annual rents. The United Nations soon followed suit.
In 2013, the ruling political party in Uganda constructed a 27-floor tower to house the National Resistance Movement headquarters in the capital Kampala. The ruling president helped raise funds to build the USD12.5 million Movement House by a hundred thousand of party members donation, and other means he initiated. It will become a mixed-use high-rise structure accommodating retail space, financial, office, and other leisure amenities.