Outgoing Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte Saturday took aim at his main rival ahead of the Dutch vote next week, as his slender lead over Labour dissolved in the latest opinion polls.
Four days before elections to choose a new parliament, a late poll result put Diederik Samsom's Labour Party (PvdA) neck-and-neck with Rutte's previously dominant VVD party.
"I don't see them as a threat to me," Rutte told the conservative daily tabloid De Telegraaf in an interview published Saturday, "but as a threat to the Netherlands."
Over the last two weeks, opinion polls have tracked the meteoric rise of Samsom's pro-Europe PvdA, which has closed on the VVD.
Finally on Saturday night, Dutch public broadcaster NOS, on its website, put both parties at 35 seats in their "political barometer".
The party that wins Wednesday's elections will be in charge of forming a new coalition government in the 150-seat lower house, and a new prime minister is chosen from its ranks -- usually the party leader.
In his interview with De Telegraaf, Rutte warned of the consequences of a Labour win.
""We'll see fewer jobs and the return of waiting lists in health care, he said. "This is dangerous for the Netherlands."
He claimed Labour's policies would see "76,000 jobs lost" while his party planned to create 285,000 new ones.
Asked whether he would consider forming a so-called "purple" coalition which would include the Liberals, Labour and the pro-Europe centre-right D66 party to get a majority in parliament, Rutte said it would be a "difficult choice."
Purple is the term derived for a coalition between the three parties, whose colours are blue, red and green.
"A purple cabinet, I think is a long way away," Rutte said.
But Samsom hit back, saying from the campaign trail in Utrecht that he was "surprised" by Rutte's attack.
"We shouldn't campaign by trying to scare each other," Samsom said.
"I thought that we were going to campaign with our own policies in order to draw voters towards us. Not by saying how bad the others are. I don't think anyone wants that."
Political scientist Andre Krouwel said Rutte's claims were an indication that the VVD, which won 31 seats in 2010 polls, ahead of the PvdA's 30, was feeling the heat from Labour's rising popularity.
"Labour is getting really close -- and the VVD must be feeling quite anxious that their own election strategies aren't working that well," he told AFP earlier, before the latest polls were released.
Samsom took over the reins of a dysfunctional Labour Party in March.
At the time the party had seen its popularity slump in opinion polls to the equivalent of a mere 14 seats. Two weeks ago, the PvdA was still sitting at 18 seats in polls.
But a campaign blitz that saw Samsom taking the initiative in a series of televised debates seemed to have galvanised many undecided voters earning the former Greenpeace activist the title of the "comeback kid" of Dutch politics.
Fellow party members however claimed Samsom's campaign success had already started earlier this year when he was chosen to lead the party, after which he set out to meet ordinary citizens throughout the country.