President Emmerson Mnangagwa officially applied for Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth it left in 2003 and invited the grouping of former British colonies to send observers to its July general elections.
The southern African nation formally quit the Commonwealth after then leader Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980, came under criticism over disputed elections and land seizures from white farmers.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said in a statement Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe after a de facto army coup in November, made the application on May 15.
“Zimbabwe’s eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion, given our shared rich history,” Scotland said.
Mnangagwa is expected to set an election date at the end of this month.
The presidential, parliamentary and council elections are seen as a litmus test of Mnangagwa’s democratic credentials and if agreed by Western powers, international lenders could begin lending to the country for the first time in 20 years.
Election observers will produce a report to form part of an informal assessment to determine Zimbabwe’s re-admission, Scotland said.