ROME (AP) - Italy's political dream team remains where it is, but the supporting cast threaten to destroy the imagination.

On Thursday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella was sworn in for a second term after his re-election over the weekend, despite his protests. The tone that won him over: Italy cannot afford to break now.

Keeping Mattarella in his post, the argument went, would allow Prime Minister Mario Draghi, one of the leading candidates for the presidency, to remain in office as well. That meant Draghi could keep his ruling coalition together, destabilize snap elections and lead Italy through a pandemic recovery.

Mattarella gave in. The European heads of state and government breathed a sigh of relief. The financial markets did the same. crisis averted.

For now.

Within days it became clear that the political infighting that erupted during the presidential election had exposed deep divisions within Draghi's ruling coalition and left wounds that will not heal anytime soon.

Now the unity of the Italian right is collapsing, and leaders are threatening to found new parties and forge new alliances. And within the powerful 5 Star Movement, which has more seats in Parliament than any other party, a leadership struggle has erupted.

The right-wing alliance was "fragmented," announced Giorgia Meloni, chairwoman of the far-right party "Brothers of Italy." "No longer exists. It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up."

The tensions will test Draghi's ruling coalition and potentially hamper the government's effectiveness at a time when billions of euros in EU money are at stake. The outcome will determine whether Italy can make the most of a unique opportunity to boost its sluggish economy and embark on long-term structural reforms.

"By the summer, [Draghi] is in a position of strength," said Giovanni Orsina, a professor of political history at Luiss University in Rome. “Stability is confirmed for the next six months or so and during that time Draghi can push through his reforms. Then the parties will start campaigning in September."

Italy's president is elected through an obscure series of backroom votes and agreements between political leaders and just over 1,000 lawmakers from across the country. The post, while often ceremonial, is crucial in a political crisis as it has the power to appoint prime ministers. This is exactly how Draghi came to power, used by Mattarella to guide Italy through the pandemic.

The recent presidential election unfolded over nearly a week of infighting and conspiracies. As lawmakers neared the end of Mattarella's term on February 3, the process remained deadlocked, clogged by a web of vetoes, and neither left nor right were able to rally behind a candidate.

As the days went by, second-tier lawmakers, in defiance of their bosses' orders, voted for Mattarella in increasing numbers, signaling a way to break the impasse.

When Mattarella broke through, most parties claimed the result as a win. But the fisticuffs and mutual accusations of the last few days have caused potentially irreparable damage to Italy's landscape.

The first victim seems to be Italy's right-wing coalition.

Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini was initially in a potential position to make kings. But a series of tactical blunders prompted his coalition to attack him.

At first, Salvini did not succeed in winning the coalition for his preferred candidate. The right-wing bloc then split into factions, disagreeing over another candidate and then whether to support Mattarella.

Salvini's approach is "crazy," Meloni said.

Well, Salvini responded and launched a bid to create a new party with conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi, the former three-time prime minister who had openly campaigned for the presidency.

The up-and-coming centre-left alliance did only marginally better.

After Mattarella's election, Secretary of State Luigi Di Maio, a former 5Stars leader, attacked his successor Giuseppe Conte.