Election officials in Turkmenistan have registered the Central Asian nation's president to run in next month's vote against eight other candidates, all of whom have voiced support for his policies.

The authoritarian ex-Soviet republic's election commission on Wednesday announced the names of the candidates who will stand against President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, for the first time including representatives of non-government parties. The contest is considered a formality, however. Berdymukhamedov won the 2012 election with 97 percent of the vote, beating seven other members of the ruling party.

The president maintains a firm grip over power through intimidation and welfare subsidies.

Turkmenistan is heavily reliant on its large natural gas reserves and is struggling economically because of a slump in global prices for energy commodities.