But the vote was still hard to call.
"Success! The European Parliament has set an extremely important precedent after voting in favour of Article 7 that puts in motion infringement procedures against Hungary for failing to respect fundamental EU values".
The top European Union court could impose fines, which would be less drastic for Hungary than losing its voting rights.
However, that is highly unlikely to happen as the rest of the European Union needs unanimity, and Poland's nationalist and anti-immigration government is expected to block any tough action against Orban.
But the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, launched similar steps under article seven against Poland in December a year ago over its alleged threat to the independence of the courts.
Speaking to European lawmakers on Tuesday, Orban described the vote as an act of revenge against Hungary for refusing to take in refugees under an EU-wide resettlement quota scheme.
He said it has sent MEPs and European Union countries a 100-plus page rebuttal of Sargentini's "false" charges and that Orban will give a robust, but brief defence on Tuesday.
"We stand up for the rights of all Europeans, including Hungarian citizens and we defend our European values", said Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green parliament member who led the effort.
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There were 48 abstentions, so the 448 in favor exceeded the two-thirds needed only because it was based on 645 votes.
Mr Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal against the result because of the way the vote was tallied.
In a debate on the situation in Hungary and held on Tuesday in the EP plenary, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stressed that the Sargentini report "insults Hungary and insults the Honor of the Hungarian nation".
He accused "socialists and liberals" of attacking his country "because Hungarian people have decided that this country is not going to be a country of migrants". "They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties".
The centre-right European People's Party, in which both Hungary's ruling Fidesz party and Orban's main political opponent in Europe, German chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) are members, has until now been seen as sheltering Orban from criticism. Although Orban's Fidesz party is part of the EPP, several of the lawmakers voted against their Hungarian allies. If national leaders also support the motion, Hungary could face sanctions and be stripped of voting rights.
Mr Orban has for years deflected much of the global condemnation of Hungary's electoral system, media freedoms, independence of the judiciary, mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees and limits on the functioning of non-governmental organisations. "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".
Orban, whose far firebrand right populism and Eurosceptic policies have had him at loggerheads with Brussels for years, recently introduced a series of laws that limited the independence of the judiciary and severely curtailed the independence of Hungary's Central Bank and largely silenced the press.