HARARE: The European Union has deployed election observers in Zimbabwe for the first time in 16 years as the country prepares for its first vote since independence without longtime leader Robert Mugabe.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe ally who took office after Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure, has invited dozens of observers for the historic July 30 vote.
Mnangagwa seeks to engage the West after years of sanctions. Previous Zimbabwe votes were marked by allegations of violence and fraud, and Mugabe banned Western observers, accusing them of bias.
Western countries say a credible vote is key to lifting sanctions.
EU deputy chief observer Mark Stevens says the EU will have 140 observers by election day. He says they will remain in the case of a runoff vote.