By Steve Scherer
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement pummeled a center-right coalition to govern Ostia, one of Rome's largest neighborhoods, in a run-off vote that confirms the 5-Star's strength months away from a national election.
Five-Star's Giuliana Di Pillo took 60 percent of the vote, doubling her first-round result, against 40 percent for the center-right's Monica Picca in a closely watched contest that comes just months before a national election.
The result shows the legal troubles that have plagued the administration of Rome's 5-Star mayor, Virginia Raggi, since her election in June of last year have not dampened the maverick party's popularity in the capital.
"There is a Raggi effect and it's positive," Luigi Di Maio, the 5-Star prime minister candidate, wrote on Twitter. "In Rome we continue to win even against a coalition of five center-right forces."
The 5-Star is Italy's most-popular party ahead of a national vote due between March and May, while the ruling Democratic Party (PD) is a distant second, a poll showed last week.
But a center-right alliance joining Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!), the anti-immigration Northern League and the far-right Brothers of Italy would pull in the most votes, though it would fall short of a parliamentary majority.
The PD failed to make it to Ostia's run-off and the turnout was just 34 percent. The previous center-left administration for the capital's seaside borough, which has more than 230,000 inhabitants, was dissolved two years ago after police said it had fallen under the influence of organized crime.
This year's campaign was marred by alleged connections between the neo-fascist Casapound party, which won more than 9 percent in the first round and will have a seat on the local council, and organized crime.
Ten days before the runoff, Robert Spada, a brother of an imprisoned mobster, attacked a journalist for RAI state TV who had gone to ask questions about Spada's open support for Casapound.
Italian organized crime groups have long sought control of local governments, and some 450 municipal administrations of different political stripes have been dissolved for mafia infiltration over the past quarter century.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Toby Chopra)