In the unprecedented move, 448 MEPs voted in favour of launching the so-called "Article 7" procedure, 197 against and with 48 abstentions, the EP referred Hungary to the other member states to check the health of the country's democracy.
But most British Conservative MEPs voted against the move. The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, launched Article 7 proceedings against Poland past year over its judicial reforms.
But it was still unclear whether the 751-strong European Parliament would be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass the censure motion, which accuses Hungary of breaching core EU values.
A majority of the issues addressed in the report do not fall under European Union jurisdiction, 13 of the 69 critical remarks have already been settled, and there are ongoing infringement procedures regarding many others, he said.
For years, Orban has successfully deflected much of the global condemnation about Hungary's electoral system, media freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum-seekers and refugees and limitations on the functioning of non-governmental organizations, but criticism has been growing even within the European People's Party, to which his Fidesz party belongs.
Before the vote, EPP leader Manfred Weber, who has announced his candidacy for the Commission's top job and has been a staunch defender of Orban until now, indicated that his patience for his Hungarian party colleagues was coming to an end.More news: Hurricane Florence starts its prolonged assault on the Carolinas
Orban has said the mostly Muslim refugees pose an existential threat to Europe's Christian civilization.
Judith Sargentini, the Dutch Green MEP who led charge against Mr Orban, said: "The Hungarian people deserve better".
He has also been accused of waging a state-backed anti-Semitic campaign against the Jewish businessman George Soros.
Verhofstadt went on to say that Orban was not his country, and that Hungary was "far more eternal" than Orban's far-right government. "It is up to the European leaders to take their responsibility and stop watching from the sidelines as the rule of law is destroyed in Hungary, ' she is quoted as saying by the BBC".
Prime Minister Viktor Orban vowed Hungary would resist any attempt to "blackmail" it into softening its anti-migrant stance on Tuesday on the eve of an European Union parliament vote to censure his populist government.
Former Prime Minister and Maltese MEP Alfred Sant refused to vote on a censure motion against Hungary for undermining the European Union's core values, drawing parallels with the Maltese experience of the a year ago.More news: Southgate understands Mourinho’s use of Rashford
The group may now consider whether to suspend Orban's Fidesz party.
Kovacs also suggested that the alliance with Fidesz boosts the EPP's appeal to European voters.
The spokesman added: "We place great value on the importance of the rule of law".
"We are going back to a European history none of us want to see again", said European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans. The legal service told parliamentary groups earlier this week that abstentions don't count as votes cast based on the treaty.
A unanimous vote is required, though Poland is expected to block it from passing.More news: EC chief Juncker: 10,000 more border guards for European Union
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