With about 45 percent of the votes from Sunday’s poll counted, the former leader, stripped from office in 2004 after protests known as the Orange Revolution reversed disputed election results, lead with about 27 percent.
Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party appeared to come in third. The party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, Yushchenko’s former prime minister who he fired in 2005 over corruption allegations, placed second with 24 percent of the vote.
With none of the parties winning enough of a majority to lead unopposed, a coalition government is expected.
Yushchenko, who has yet to make a statement in the face of apparent defeat, said he would not commence coalition talks until after final election results expected on Tuesday.
“It is logical to start talks on a coalition after the official declaration of the election results. This is the president’s position,” Ivan Vasyunyk, the president’s deputy chief of staff told reporters, according to Reuters.
The upset may force Yushchenko into a partnership with Tymoshenko, considered an interventionist who opposes Yushchenko’s free market values, Reuters reported.
Tymoshenko, who has been on bad terms with Yushchenko since he fired her, has made it clear she wants to return to her old job, the news service reported.
Disillusionment over political divisions and a stagnant economy caused by lowering international prices for the country’s main exports steel and chemicals seem to have led to Yanukovich’s win, according to news reports.
The liberals, who support Ukraine’s entry into mainstream Europe and who will likely control parliament once the election count is complete, must now make good on promises of reform.
Sunday’s election appeared to be free of fraud, according to European Union observers and U.S. officials, Reuters reported.
“All indications are this appears to be a free and fair election,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.