Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal VVD is level with the Party for Freedom (PVV) of anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders ahead of Wednesday's election according to a poll taken as a diplomatic confrontation with Turkey unfolded over the weekend.
Both parties are on 24 seats and fall well short of securing a majority in the 150-seat lower house, according to the EenVandaag poll taken up to early Monday morning.
Twelve other parties are likely to gain at least one seat, said the poll, which was released after days of escalating tension between Turkey and the Netherlands over the barring of Turkish ministers trying to address a rally in Rotterdam.
The party who wins the election will likely have to form a multi-party coalition in order to govern.
Viewers of the first head-to-head confrontation between Rutte and Wilders on television Monday evening, organized by EenVandaag, called the debate a win for Rutte, who once again played the prime ministerial card to effect.
"Rutte appeared to score best in virtually all areas. People said his tone was better, more convincing than Wilders," EenVandaag said on the basis of a survey of 9,000 viewers. Wilders had previously absented himself from televised debates.
But the pollsters highlighted the uncertainties. Some 40 per cent have yet to finally make up their minds and 10 per cent still have no idea how they will vote.
In the debate, Rutte made emphatically clear that he would not cooperate with Wilders, whatever the outcome. "Not even in a tolerance structure - no, never, no," he said. Wilders provided "tolerance" to a previous short-lived Rutte government between 2010 and 2012.
"Nobody believes Mark Rutte any more," Wilders responded, constantly stressing his anti-Islam theme and referring to the 400,000 Turks resident in the Netherlands as a "fifth column."