European Union lawmakers say yes to disciplinary action against Hungary

"New Democracy will vote in favour of the Sargentini report calling on the European Parliament to activate the envidaged sanctions procedure against Hungary, in accordance with Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union", he said.

Some members of the European People's Party bloc - which Hungarian PM Viktor Orban's Fidesz movement belongs to - voted against their ally in Budapest.

Mr Orban has for years faced global condemnation over 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. "They are now preparing revenge against Hungary because the Hungarians decided they will not become an immigration country", Orban said before arriving in Strasbourg. Even Orban's fellow migration hard-liner, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, surprised by announcing plans to vote against Budapest.

He also claimed that the vote involved "massive fraud" since abstentions were not counted into the final tally, which made it easier to reach the needed majority.

He also said Hungary would seek legal ways to challenge the ruling as abstaining votes were not counted, and this, he said, changed the outcome of the vote.

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Delivering more than the two-thirds majority required as many of Orban's allies in the conservative party deserted him, the vote, however, has little chance of ending up with the ultimate penalty of Hungary being suspended from voting in the EU.

"This is a historic result for Hungarian citizens and for European citizens everywhere, that the European Parliament has voted by a large majority to stand up for the values we all hold dear", Ms Sargentini said.

In France, where President Emmanuel Macron is campaigning for next year's European elections in direct opposition to Orban, an Elysee source said the vote "was a good signal".

The vote was reportedly an unexpected blow to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of pressuring courts and media and has refused to accept asylum seekers since assuming power in 2010. He has also expressed his desire to remain within the EPP, which he said was "deeply divided" on the issue of migration.

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