Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has told Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov to begin talks on forming a coalition government.

Following yesterday's election, in which his party looks set to come in third place, Mr Yushchenko faces the hard choice of uniting with one of his main political rivals.

These include Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Moscow former prime minister forced to cede power to Mr Yushchenko in the 'orange revolution' in late 2004, or Yulia Tymoshenko, the president's ally whom he fired as prime minister six months ago.

Either marriage of convenience will carry a hefty political risk for the Ukrainian leader, who assumed power vowing to drive Ukraine towards membership of the EU and NATO.

With just over 55% of the votes counted, Mr Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party had 16.10%, compared to Mr Yanukovych's Regions Party, with 27.88%, and Ms Tymoshenko's group which had 23.29%.

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have praised the elections, saying they met democratic standards.