Early indications pointed to a higher voter turnout than the last election as the Netherlands went to the polls Wednesday after a fiercely contested campaign that focused on identity and cultural values rather than the usual bread-and-butter issues.

Pollsters Ipsos put voter turnout at 15 per cent at 10:30 am (0930 GMT), up from 13 per cent five years ago, with mild weather appearing to play a part.

In The Hague, the seat of government, the figure was above 23 per cent at noon, up from 19 per cent in 2012. High figures were recorded in Rotterdam and Utrecht as well.

Anecdotal evidence on social media also indicated a turnout reaching above the near-75 per cent recorded in the last general election.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on the 13 million eligible to make use of their vote. "It's an achievement, and a lot of people worked hard for it," he said as he voted at a school in The Hague.

Populist firebrand Geert Wilders brushed aside late indications from the opinion polls that his Party for Freedom (PVV) was losing support as he voted in The Hague.

"We have left our mark on the election. Everybody is talking about our issues," said the anti-Islam leader, who has made immigration and integration dominating themes of the campaign.

Hours before polling began, pollsters I&O said two-thirds of the electorate was still undecided. "Fifty-four per cent of the voters are considering several parties, and 12 per cent are completely undecided," said Peter Kanne of I&O Research.

That fact, plus the likelihood of 14 parties taking at least one seat in the 150-member lower house made the election impossible to call.

The oldest candidate - standing for the Party for the Animals - is 93.

With Rutte's liberal pro-market VVD in the lead on a projected 24 seats, and the PVV on anything between 16 and 23, forming a working coalition is set to be difficult.

Five other parties from across the political spectrum are on more than 10 seats, according to late polling.

Cooperation with Wilders has been ruled out by all the other major parties.

The campaign was overshadowed in its final days by an ugly spat with Turkey that began after the Netherlands banned a Turkish political rally, prompting Turkey's president to call the Dutch government "Nazi remnants."

The Netherlands is the first of three key European elections this year, with right-wing populist parties strong presences in each.

The first round of voting in the French presidential election takes place next month, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is vying for a fourth term in September.

Pollsters Ipsos were set to publish the results of an exit poll immediately after voting stations close at 9 pm (2000 GMT).

Official results will trickle in after that, with results also coming in from three communities in the Caribbean and 75,000 Dutch voters registered abroad.

The final official result will be announced only next week, but a clear indication of the next parliament should emerge in the hours after polling closes.

However, cobbling together a working coalition could take months, with observers pointing to the possibility of a minority cabinet operating on the basis of shifting majorities in parliament.

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