WASHINGTON – A political give-and-take to form a coalition is expected now that election results show no Iraqi group won the votes needed to form a new government on its own, lawmakers said Sunday.
"That's really part of that democracy that we're all so happy that they're moving toward," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said on "Fox News Sunday."
The State Department said the election was "a positive and significant accomplishment" and encouraged Iraqis who were not elected to remain involved in the political process.
The slate of Shiite Muslims for the 275-member National Assembly received just under half of the votes cast in the Jan. 30 elections, the first since Saddam Hussein (search) was ousted as president in 2003. A two-thirds majority of the assembly chooses the president and two vice presidents, which could push the Shiites to form a coalition with other political groups.
"They're brand new at this and it really depends on how they reach out," Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox.
The candidate list dominated by Kurds (search) came in second while the slate put together by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) finished third. Sunni Muslims (search), who generally stayed home during the elections and cast just 2 percent of votes, still must be involved politically for the Iraqi system to have legitimacy, Biden said.
"They're going to have to see more Sunnis brought into the constitution writing if there's going to be any legitimacy at the end of the day, and I think we'll see that," Biden said.
Sen. Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said he thought "it was a good thing that the Shiites can't just sort of dictate how things are to go. And democracy is going to be at work, not just at the polling places but now within the halls of the government. That's a wonderful accomplishment," said Santorum, R-Pa., on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said the results were good news and that the election itself was good "by Republican standards." But he questioned whether American think it was worth the U.S. and Iraqi casualties.
"We went into Iraq (search) not for elections," Rangel said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We went there to knock off Saddam Hussein, but the American people thought it was connected with 9/11, there was weapons of mass destruction, there were connections with Al Qaeda (search). It was all a fraud," he said.
In a statement read by spokeswoman Joanne Moore, the State Department congratulated those elected to the transitional national assembly and commended all of the candidates.
"We encourage those who were not elected to look for new ways to contribute to Iraq's ongoing political process," the department said. "And we hope that those who did not take part will find ways to be involved and contribute to that process."