The election commission website said Zelensky, 41, had won 30.2 percent of the vote, while Poroshenko, 53, garnered 16.7, with over half of all ballots counted. Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was knocked out with 13.08 percent of the vote, according to the partial results, Press TV reported.
The two rivals will now have to face off in a run-off round slated for April 21 as Zelenskiy failed to achieve an outright victory in Sunday’s election.
Zelenskiy’s political experience remains restrained to a fictional president he has been playing in a popular TV series. During his campaign, he capitalized on public discontent with corruption and the country’s stalling economy under Poroshenko.
Poroshenko has also been under scrutiny for what many view as his inability to resolve a bloody conflict, which has been gripping the country’s eastern Russian-speaking regions since 2014.
“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all the Ukrainians who did not vote just for fun,” Zelenskiy told cheering supporters on Sunday. “It is only the beginning, we will not relax.”
Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Agnese Ortolani said Zelenskiy “embodies the perceived need for ‘new faces’ in politics and could sway the young, pro-reform electorate to his side.”
Poroshenko, for his part, called the result a “harsh lesson” for him to learn, especially from the younger voters of the country, whom he urged to give the incumbent another chance in next month’s run-off.
“You see changes in the country, but want them to be quicker, deeper and of higher quality. I have understood the motives behind your protest,” he said.
Poroshenko also portrayed his comic rival as unfit for the post.
Russian President Vladamir Putin “dreams of a soft, pliant, tender, giggling, inexperienced, weak, ideologically amorphous and politically undecided president of Ukraine,” said Poroshenko. “Are we really going to give him that opportunity?”
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of having a hand in eastern Ukraine’s conflict, which pits government troops against pro-Russia forces active there. Moscow denies the allegations.
Both Zelenskiy and Poroshenko have pro-western tendency, opposing reconciliation with their eastern neighbors.
Poroshenko’s campaign is focused on the promise that one day Ukraine will join the EU and NATO, an aspiration that was enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution during his first term.